10.12.21–25.02.22


I did a workshop in the KABK in which we did nothing for an hour. A student noted that she is scared of doing nothing because you tend to have to go further into thoughts, further than perhaps is comfortable. That is what happened to me when I got stuck in a James Benning screening so many years ago. I don’t remember exactly what thoughts passed through my brain, but I do remember a fruitful discomfort. I remember thinking about my family a lot. As if a vat of suppressed thoughts had opened. Unpleasant but probably necessary. I feel like jumping to a next paragraph, but perhaps I need to stay with this thought for a bit longer.


I did do that and wrote at length about thoughts regarding the theme of family. It felt too personal to leave here though. I'm a little afraid of being too personal. I also wonder whether it is relevant for what I am doing here. Since that is still undefined, I guess I just have to follow my intuition on what feels relevant and what not.


One urge that has come up a lot and does somehow feel relevant is to dive into my grandpa’s archives. He would always document everything, from filming the every move of his grandchildren to writing down what he did and who visited every single day. He would make physical lists of the digital contents of his hard drive, convert Super 8 films and VHS tapes to DVDs. He would draw out calendars by hand, just like I do now. Before he passed away he tried to get rid of a lot of his stuff so “we wouldn’t have to deal with them”. He scanned his yearly agendas and destroyed the physical books, to my disappointment. Because I would like to deal with them.

While he’s not there anymore, my grandma is. While he would always know where to find something back, my grandma’s memory is slowly – no actually quite rapidly – fading. Failing. Especially after my grandpa died. It’s hard to have a conversation with her. She will ask if everything’s going well every other minute. My dad is taking care of her now, but talks about her in a condescending way. Sometimes it seems that she is being given up, while still being there.

I feel that maybe now is the time to go through my grandpa’s things, while being around my grandma. While she is still around. I’m not sure what I would be searching for. Perhaps resemblance. Clarification, as if my habits that I so compulsively do would makes more sense. Acceptance? Or perhaps I’m curious to see how it feels to go through someone else’s documentation, especially someone who is not there anymore. What remains of a person.

This probably connects to the idea of what remains of a person in terms of a body of work. Today I said something about Tehching Hsieh’s work, which I find very inspiring, how I actually long for the opposite of what he does. I think. His One Year Performances take over his entire life, for that one year. I think I long for doing work in a way that feels more like it embraces life. How life sometimes – no often – gets in the way. Because it does. What I would like about his method is that he has clear rules of what he can do or cannot do. And in the end there is a work, even if only the artefacts (announcement posters, artist statements, contract, photographs, time-lapse-y documentation etc) remain.

What remains of time being spent. What did I do this last month? I can go through my calendar, in which I tried to log accurately what I did, or my browser search history and the photos, videos and conversations on my phone. I would like to give a detailed explanation why I failed to properly work on my “essaying”. Working properly on it for me would mean to dedicate time to it on a regular basis in a way that is visible. I spend so much time doing invisible labour that I cannot show in the end. That therefore does not feel productive, because there is nothing to reflect back on.


Until here is what I wrote back in December. Right now it's the 14th of January. I want to intervene here because I forgot to explain something.

Perhaps it's good to mention that I'm not so great in remembering the things I've read and contemplated. At least to articulate these things, especially in moments of pressure. Such a moment can already be a conversation with someone. I am not sure why I feel pressure even when talking to a friend. Do I feel unsafe? It's like blacking out in a presentation. Perhaps I'm not doing a great job in processing the things I come across? Perhaps I haven't found the best way to process things yet?

Back to what I wrote in December.


What helps is writing like this, going through memories of what I thought about and then trying to think in real time, out loud, right here. Maybe I can try to explain what this invisible labour is. First of all it’s a lot of worrying. I worry too much for sure. I already criticise a step before I take it and I know that that is very unproductive, but I can’t help it. I think writing like this comes closest to a remedy. Perhaps that is why I love writing. It’s the method in which I can keep up with my doubts, and at the same time give them space to unfold. Talking out loud into a voice recorder doesn’t work the same way. I also like glancing back to what I wrote earlier and see connections between sentences. Repetition. Sometimes correct something, to make it feel a little better. But not too much.

I wish I could apply this to filmmaking. Sometimes I am not sure why I initially planned to make a film. It seems like a book would be more logical. But for some reason I want to make a film. A thought that went through my head now is that I hate that I never have storage space on my devices, which makes it hard to shoot a lot of footage and edit it together.


This is where my passage from December 10th ended. Continuing again on January 14th.

Last night I was thinking about montage in film and linking up things to create a narrative. I've starting reading Byung-Chul Han's The Scent of Time again, a philosophical essay on the art of lingering. He writes about how the feeling that time rushes by, is beyond being an acceleration of time and more of an atomization. Time is "tearing away"; it is whizzing without direction, without a course, without any meaningful conclusion. He remains very theoretical and abstract here, but somehow his words connect to how I feel in this process, as well as generally in life. A process actually implies a course, a direction. I've been feeling very directionless, as I don't know exactly what I'm doing here. I'm writing down my thoughts. Does placing those thougths next to each other create a process? Perhaps. But only if there are connection between the elements? Or will connections naturally appear?

"The idea that whoever lives twice as fast can enjoy twice as many of life possibilities; the acceleration of life multiplies life and thus brings a person closer to the goal of having a fulfilled life. But this is a naïve conclusion which rests on a confusion of fulfilment with mere plenitude. A fulfilled life cannot be explained on a quantitative basis. It does not result from a plenitude of life possibilities, just as a recounting or listing of events does not necessarily amount to a narration or account. Rather, the latter require a special synthesis to which they owe their meaning. A long list of events does not produce the tension which characterizes a story, while a very short story may nevertheless possess a powerful narrative tension. [...] The acceleration thesis does not recognize that the real problem today is the fact that life has lost the possibility of reaching a meaningful conclusion. It is this fact that leads to the hectic rush and nervousness which characterize contemporary life. One begins every anew; one zaps through 'life possibilites', precisely because of an inability to bring any single possibility to a conclusion. The individual's life is not informed by a story or meaningful totality. It is misleading to talk of an acceleration of life pursued with the aim of maximising its possibilities. Upon closer scrutiny, this acceleration turns out to be a nervous restlessness which makes life whizz, so to speak; it hurtles from one possibility to the next. It never achieves rest – that is, completion."

I've now quoted over half of the spread on page 10 and 11. It's hard to stop, every sentence feels relevant. If I had to choose one sentence or phrase that is the most important of this section it is:

"the real problem today is the fact that life has lost the possibility of reaching a meaningful conclusion"

The last sentence ("It never achieves rest – that is, completion.") relates to my desire to make space for doing nothing. While working on my project A Space For Lingering and thesis On Lingering, I kind of overlooked this important point about reaching a conclusion. If anything I was constantly trying to postpone a conclusion or avoid one. I guess postponing means continuing the course, but avoiding comes probably more from an inability to form a conclusion.


Today is February 7th. I was reading back through this document and decided I should continue writing here. But first I will paste some writing from February 3rd.


I am tired. Now that I am writing again with a bit of a format, things start flowing again though. I hope I don't get discouraged; sometimes so many ideas start to pop up that it makes me – in Han's words – whizz. I wish in those moments I could swiftly jot down or take a step back and observe the ideas, or possible directions, to see which ones have potential and which other ones are irrelevant. I do always feel a tendency to still write everything down, in case it might be relevant later. But I often fail to catch them, as if they're soaring by too fast.

I think essaying, this activity of attempting or trying, making effort to do something, aiming or striving for something, through writing or putting media together, helps me pull out the knots in my thinking.

The something is the thing that needs to be defined. I've been trying to formulate a research question to center all of this essaying around, but haven't managed to commit to one. Isn't it "How to validate doing nothing in an achievement society?"...? But then I feel that it's not really about doing nothing anymore, but actually striving to do something. Finding a way to start doing something again. Again this "something", an undefined thing rather than a particular thing.

A mistake I also seem to make is that me doing a project on "doing nothing" does not mean that I need to be doing nothing. If I'm doing a project than I am doing something. I have tried ways of producing work in a manner than feels close to doing nothing. Here I define doing nothing as doing something quite mindlessly, but in a way mindfully (in the whole mindfulness sense of the word). Mindlessly as there is no pressure for my brain to make decisions. Mindfully as in I am fully present with what I am doing. The doing that I am thinking about is the dot-drawing thing that I sometimes do. Or walking around recording sound to make soundscapes with.

Through these methods I try to find ways to make work, which feels good or necessary in this achievement society, while relieving myself from any pressure to perfectly produce something. Because I know the field of dots together looks nice and that the sound with a bit processing will sound nice, in my opinion at least. On top of that I find pleasure in thinking that this kind of work quenstions or subverts the idea of being productive. In a way, I am trying to find ways to cope with the achievement society, how to escape it yet still participate in it.

A thing that the dot drawings and the soundscapes have in common is a certain abstraction. A lot of work I do is quite "brain-heavy". Reading theories, writing about it. Dealing with information. Conversations. Definitions. Lot of words. Lot of thinking. Things you state that you might want to take back later. Insecurities and hesitations regarding that. Whereas when I put a dot in one place or the other, is there a right or wrong?

I know I have been struggling with perfectionism and doing things right or wrong since I was young. When I was 8 my teacher sat my mom and I down for a conversation: to tell me that I can (as in "am allowed to") make mistakes. "But why would I, if I can do it right?", was my reaction.

I am at a point now where I wonder whether I am burning out. That sounds quite intense, and I wonder whether I would be exaggerating saying that, but I feel quite intense – tense that is. When I lay in bed at night and try to consciously feel my body and try to let go, to relax, I still feel the whizzing. Every day there is that nervous feeling, as if a deadline is nearby or something bad is going to happen, lurking in my chest. Sometimes it feels a bit like after having been swimming. Or crying. Something with feeling filled with water. Right now I feel it.

I have always been a nervous person, both about professional and personal matters. I am often afraid of dissappointing someone, which relates to validation I guess. Then there is getting validation from yourself. When do I myself feel fulfilled?

In all of this writing right now, I was initially striving to unravel what my project is about. I keep coming back to my personal struggles. I keep thinking "I am tired – I don't want to do anything, please let me rest." but at the same time I do want to do something. Should I stop working for a few months and try again, or should I find a way of working that feels more natural and less stressful? A way of working that embeds a healthy relation to work and achievement, and thus in a way to time?


Today is the 18th of February. On the 7th I didn't manage to write more of a conclusion to this train of thought. I am scared of putting this online. I don't like how often I start with "I"; I'm not sure I want to be the subject matter this much. I am trying to embrace it though, like Michel de Montaigne did.


Today is the 25th of February and I still haven't published this. I'm asking myself why I even would. Perhaps some things should be kept to oneself. Why do I feel such an urge to portray a process in the most honest way I can? (Is this even a process?) Why do I feel inclined to put a time stamp on almost everything that I do? I tell myself I do so to keep track of what happens in life, and that I share it to show how things happen slowly and not linearly. It's my way of creating the illusion that I am more in control of time passing by. I guess. I wonder what others do with their days. Are we all sad and anxious about the fact that we cannot get things done as fast as we want or as well as we want? Writing this just feels extremely banal and privileged considering the fact that a war has just started. Then again I see stories about supporting Ukraine amid stories from the same people sharing their upcoming DJ-set or granola breakfast. Life keeps going.

Anyway, I am still tired and still feel like screaming "laat me alsjeblieft met rust" to some undefined entity that holds all the sources of my anxiety. At the same time I have hope that I can write myself out of this rut, this block. Maybe not in this way, but let's just hit publish for now. Might delete later.