[EN] Doing Nothing is a practice-based research programme where we investigate what happens when we do nothing at all. We carve out time and space to “be,” without expectations or desires for changing or achieving anything in particular. Doing nothing does not mean that we suddenly institute laziness or want to be bored. On the contrary, we find that occasionally bringing the relentless pace of doing to a halt is an essential part of the creative process, bringing a necessary distance, awareness and invigoration both to doing and being.

[NL] Doing Nothing is een praktijkgericht onderzoek waar we niets gaan verbeteren of verwachten, maar waar we tijd en ruimte willen scheppen om te zien wat er gebeurt als we helemaal niks doen. Kunnen we het onszelf toelaten om midden in de kunstenwerkplaats, tijdens de werkuren, of midden in de drukte van een kunstproductie even tot stilstand te komen? Niks doen betekent niet dat we opeens lui willen worden of ons gaan vervelen. Integendeel, we vinden tijdelijk stoppen met doen een essentieel onderdeel van het creatief proces.



[EN] Stress, Burnout, ADD and pathological anxiety attacks are just a few examples of the contemporary malaise of too much work – too little satisfaction, too much information, too little meaning. As a society we seem to have lost the plot a little… What happened to those promises that democracy and technological innovation would bring about a paradise-like egalitarian society with an abundance of leisure and self-development? Instead we work more, become more stressed and less happy, and suffer from chronic diseases and lack of time. There are numerous studies, methods that have been devised and (re)discovered in an effort to improve the situation. For some people things improve, but generally speaking we're not doing so well. The cultural field – which could provide inspiration for living life creatively – is not doing much better: most of us work more than eight hours a day and and more than five days a week; financial uncertainty and relatively low incomes bring additional pressures; artists are forced to become cultural managers and bureaucrats; etc. How long can we keep going like this? Through FoAM's coaching programme we noticed that the effects of stress in our sector are increasing dangerously. Therefore, we decided to include Doing Nothing as an important part of our artistic programme and daily routine.

[NL] Stress, Burn-out, ADD en pathologische angstaanvallen zijn maar enkele voorbeelden van de hedendaagse malaise van te veel werk - te weinig voldoening, te veel informatie - te weinig betekenis. We zijn als samenleving een beetje de kluts kwijt… Wat is er gebeurd met de beloftes dat democratie en technologische innovatie een paradijselijke rechtvaardige samenleving met zich zouden brengen, met een overvloed aan vrije tijd en zelfontwikkeling? In plaats daarvan werken we meer, zijn we meer gestrest, minder blij en leiden we aan tijdsgebrek en chronische ziektes. Er zijn talloze onderzoeken, methodes die proberen om de situatie te verbeteren. Bij enkele mensen lukt dat wel, maar algemeen bekeken gaat het niet zo goed. In het kunstenveld - dat een voorbeeld zou kunnen zijn van creatief leven - is het niet veel beter gesteld: de meesten onder ons werken meer dan acht uur per dag en meer dan vijf dagen per week; financiële onzekerheid door relatief lage vergoedingen brengt extra druk; kunstenaars zijn gedwongen om cultuurmanagers en bureaucraten te worden, enz. Hoe lang gaan we dit nog volhouden? Door FoAM's coachingprogramma hebben we gemerkt dat de effecten van stress in onze sector gevaarlijk aan het toenemen zijn. Daarom hebben we besloten om Doing Nothing als onderzoeksonderwerp te starten.

We began Doing Nothing as a formal programme in 2013. Informally, we've been exploring different techniques of being, introspection, meditation and contemplation for several years.


Photographic experiments in ethereality, materiality and time:

Futures of Doing Nothing

A scenario workshop and series of pre-enactments on The Futures of Doing Nothing, as part of the Future Fabulators project. These pages include a good collection of quotes.


A group of 9 FoAM members participated in the Naikan retreat at FoAM in Brussels in 2010. For a week we spent time together in silence, each of us following a flow of instrospective exercises.

In 2010 Maja followed the 8 week course in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at UZ Brussel with Ineke Vanmulders. In 2011 she followed the course Mindfulness in Communicatie at AZ Antwerpen with Edel Maex. Maja has since used and adapted several mindfulness techniques in FoAM's workshops, meetings, trainings, mentoring and conflict situations.

Example of a mindfulness exercise used in the GroWorld research group at KABK in Den Haag:

A 3 minute breathing pause (in dutch):

A talk from Medium about a Mindful Workplace


Links from the online Mindfulness Summit in October 2015

Exercise suggestion: Every morning when arriving at FoAM allow yourself to really arrive in the studio by doing something that will help make the place more enjoyable/beautiful/inhabited. For 15-20 minutes forget about workplans and schedules and simply offer a service to the space in which you spend most of your working hours. Look around and see what needs doing: repairs, cleaning, tidying up, gardening, organising, maintenance, moving furninture… Do not worry about the results, just perform your 'selfless service' for twenty minutes without expectations.

This exercise is inspired by two things: the practice of Karma Yoga (discipline of action) and the 20 minutes of 'daily work period' that we were allowed to engage in during the Naikan retreat. It was a great thing to do and the space looked much more cared for after 9 people worked on it for only 20 minutes each day.

Exercise suggestion: Design a small ritual that would allow you to really 'arrive' at your place of work, without thinking of any past or future actions. Sit down (in a group) and have a 5-10 minute meditation. Sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee in silence, just observing the space. Light incense or an oil burner (if this doesn't disturb others). (etc.)

In order to keep sufficiently concentrated for eight or more hours a day, it helps to take regular breaks (once every (half) hour for a minute or so).

  • Stillness Buddy: a small piece of software that freezes the screen for a short period of time and displays a short exercise. “like having a friend that, every now and then, gently reminds you to stop, breathe, center yourself again and then continue.

Exercise proposal: Before beginning a meeting, sit together in silence for a few minutes. Become aware of yourself, your moods and expectations. Experience the presence of other people and remind yourself that they might have different moods or expectations, allow yourself to be open to anything that happens.

A number of recent books have lauded the connection between walking - just for its own sake - and thinking. But are people losing their love of the purposeless walk?

In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that multitasking is quite ineffective and stress inducing – it's akin to an institutionalised and encouraged form of ADD. At FoAM we're experimenting with different approaches to reduce extreme multitasking in the work of individuals and groups.

  • get work done before checking email
  • check email only once or twice a day
  • have blocks of time (for some people this is morning, for others afternoon or evening) dedicated to uninterrupted work
  • have clear signals (like wearing headphones), or spaces where people can work undisturbed
  • carve out at least one day per week as a 'silent day', with no meetings and phone calls, where (if possible) people spend time in the library, reading, writing or following other 'silent' pursuits. at FoAM, this has become Silent Thursday.
  • have a seasonal programming, so that similar projects are worked on at the same time. At the moment we're experimenting with the following rhythm:
    • winter: research, writing, reporting…
    • spring: design, production, co-creation…
    • summer: sharing, workshops, public speaking, fieldwork…
    • autumn: presentations, documentation, reflection

Decree About The Nothingists Of The Poetry (fragment)

Write nothing!
Read nothing!
Say nothing!
Print nothing!
  • go fishing. if fishing is too stressful, go fishing without hooks…
  • go driving. if driving is too stressful, go driving without the car…
  • go bird watching. if birdwatching is too stressful, go birdwatching without glasses…
  • a nice trio: Doing Nothing, How to Be Idle, The Underachiever's Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great
  • Andrew Simms is een pleitbezorger van de kortere werkweek. Hij stelt een radicale herverdeling van arbeid voorop (een 4-daagse werkweek i.p.v. 5-daagse) en heeft ook een tip voor een bezigheid op de 5de dag: ga (weer) tuinieren
  • Braakliggen - zie fragment uit Verre velden, Ton Lemaire
  • European Citizen's initiative for an Unconditional Basic Income
  • Werklozen hoeven zich nergens schuldig over te voelen. En al helemaal niet ziek. Ze kunnen de tijd nemen om bij te leren over onderwerpen zonder enige marktwaarde of voor bezigheden waar niemand hen ooit voor zou willen betalen.
  • In 1568 stierf Montaignes vader en werd Michel kasteelheer. Op dat kasteel trok hij zich drie jaar later, in 1571, met zijn gezin, terug uit het politieke leven en de rechterlijke macht, om er te gaan lezen in de talloze boeken die hij van zijn vriend Étienne de La Boétie geërfd had. Hij was toen 37 jaar oud.
  • in june 2000 elisabeth schimana and markus seidl started with the following mission: “a farming village in upper austria is sought, whose inhabitants are ready to discuss the following questions with us: what does comfort mean? is it comfortable to do nothing? what does it mean to do nothing? who is allowed to do what about doing nothing? the results form seven days of doing nothing.
  • Radio Passive
  • no-grow zone



Johan Braeckman

“What do you do when you find yourself with a lot more time and a lot less money on your hands than you’re used to?”

Wat alle mentale activiteiten gemeen hebben, is de specifieke rust, (…) de terugtrekking uit elk engagement en de opschorting van alle onmiddellijke belangen, die mij partijdig maken en die mij op de een of andere manier deel doen uitmaken van de werkelijke wereld – een terugtrekking waar we eerder naar verwezen (§9, tekst na noot 14), als de eerste vereiste van het oordelen. (…) distantiëring van het doen (130)

Scholê is niet de vrije tijd zoals wij die verstaan - de niet door activiteit bezette tijd die overblijft na een dag vol van “bezigheden ter vervulling van de levensbehoeften”. Scholê daarentegen is het weloverwogen afzien van, zich onthouden van (schein in het Grieks) de gebruikelijke activiteiten in dienst van onze dagelijkse behoeften (hê tôn anagkaiôn scholê), met de bedoeling ergens rustig de tijd voor te nemen (scholên agein). (…) We hebben hier dus te maken met een weloverwogen, actief niet-deelnemen aan de dagelijkse bedrijvigheid van het leven. (130)

“And meanwhile the proletariat, the great class embracing all the producers of civilized nations, the class which in freeing itself will free humanity from servile toil and will make of the human animal a free being, – the proletariat, betraying its instincts, despising its historic mission, has let itself be perverted by the dogma of work. Rude and terrible has been its punishment. All its individual and social woes are born of its passion for work.”

Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, except in being lazy. – Lessing

An excellent Balkan word meaning 'doing nothing':

A competition in lazing around in Monte Negro (the winner managed 37 hours without a toilet break):

“in october 2013 we had a great experience with our colleagues during one week of (nearly) doing nothing. we were creating a design for the week with some simple structures and tools to provide a frame for the group. after a time together in the morning with feldenkrais, breakfast and coffee, we started each day with a walk. walks in a special area - the east of linz; harbor, industrial zone,… after the walks we were guests at our host's places. also these hosts, sometimes a group, sometimes a single person didn't know what we were exactly up to. the only information given before was, that a group of people will come who will do nothing. and this situation was one of the “big surprises” for us. it brought all the participants into a very open, concentrated, lidless position. it opened a field of being in contact with people - some of whom you know, others you don't - in another way.

all the people from our group and also our hosts were invited as the entire person they are. we were together not for work, nor to discuss something in particular; not to find anything out, not with a concrete theme or issue and nobody had to be a specialist for whatever … all the people were asked to be only themselves. they were not asked to participate because of their profession (artist, performer,…) or because they were particularely successful in anything. all these things weren't important for this coming and being together. and still, in the evenings of those days it felt as if the group had become larger and larger and our experience was that the time together with these people was so inspiring, a respectful learning from each other by doing nothing together.”

Claudia Seigmann, theaternyx*

  1. “Doing nothing” isn’t really doing nothing
  2. Aimlessness, rest and even boredom can boost creativity
  3. Too much busyness is counterproductive
  4. The brain depends on downtime
  5. You’ll regain control of your attention

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday afternoon, about 70 people gathered at Ichon Hangang Park in Seoul, South Korea, to do absolutely nothing. There was not a smartphone in sight, no texting or taking selfies, and no one rushing to get anywhere.

The crowd was taking part in South Korea's annual Space Out Competition, a contest to see who can stare off into space the longest without losing focus. WoopsYang, the visual artist who created the event in 2014, said it's designed to highlight how much people have been overworking their brains and how much they stand to gain by taking a break.

“I was suffering from burnout syndrome at the time, but would feel extremely anxious if I was sitting around doing nothing, not being productive in one way or another,” she told VICE. Eventually, she realized she wasn't alone. “I thought to myself, We would all feel better about doing nothing if we did nothing together as a group.”

Nik Gaffney's collection of articles related to doing nothing:

by Pablo Neruda

A callarse

Ahora contaremos doce
y nos quedamos todos quietos.

Por una vez sobre la tierra
no hablemos en ningún idioma,
por un segundo detengámonos,
no movamos tanto los brazos.

Sería un minuto fragante,
sin prisa, sin locomotoras,
todos estaríamos juntos
en una inquietud instantánea.

Los pescadores del mar frió
no harían daño a las ballenas
y el trabajador de la sal
miraría sus manos rotas.

Los que preparan guerras verdes,
guerras de gas, guerras de fuego,
victorias sin sobrevivientes,
se pondrían un traje puro
y andarían son sus hermanos
por la sombra, sin hacer nada.

No se confunda lo quiero
con la inacción definitiva:
la vida es solo lo que se hace,
no quiero nada con la muerte.

Si no pudimos ser unánimes
moviendo tanto nuestras vidas
tal vez no hacer nada una vez,
tal vez un gran silencio pueda
interrumpir esta tristeza,
este no entendernos jamás
y amenazarnos con la muerte,
tal vez la tierra nos enseñe
cuando todo parece muerto
y luego todo estaba vivo.

Ahora contare hasta doce
y tú te callas y me voy.

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

—from Extravagaria

Inside this new love,

Your way begins on the other side.
Become the sky.

Take an axe to the prison wall.
Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.
Do it now.

You’re covered with a thick cloud.
Slide out the side.
and be quiet.
Quietness is the surest sign
that you’ve died.
Your old life was a frantic running from silence.

The speechless full moon comes out now.


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