Notes on Doing Nothing

doingnothing18Doing Nothing: Performing the Practice of Everyday Life was a durational, participatory poetic event that took place for three hours on the closing nights of the Open Embodiments conference, hosted by the LGBT Studies program at University of Arizona. This iteration of the performance happened at Solar Culture Gallery in Tucson, in a large open room where many other installations and performances were happening simultaneously.

For the duration of Doing Nothing, each poet repeatedly embodied one of their own non-productive habits, transforming this habit into a generative writing practice. Zoe Tuck obsessively documented the performance on social media. Angel Dominguez tried to nap. Joel Gregory had mirror time.  My habit: Getting drunk.

For three hours, I sat at a table with three open chairs beside an accumulation of beer bottles. You want a beer? I’d ask, when someone would walk by, or stop to see what I was doing. Most people would say yes and sit down. There’s a catch, I’d say. You have stay and talk with me for as long as it takes to drink your beer. I flipped through a stack of my notebooks on the table, picked one. Turning to a random page, I put my finger down, and read the line as a question.

What are you simultaneously attracted to, yet repulsed by?

or, How have you crossed the delineated boundary?

or, How have you internalized your own replaceability?

or, When have you failed to become ready?

Or something like that. Attempting, throughout, to maintain a heightened texture of intimacy. Through conversation. Drinking for the duration. I had covered the beer labels with stark white labels. Snatching fragments from the conversation, writing onto this blankness. Others would sit down, and I would offer them a beer, flip through my notebooks, ask another vague or open or overwrought question. Gather the fragments. Whenever someone finished their beer and got up to leave. Wait, I’d interject, would you help me read aloud the fragments? And usually they would, and the others at the table would join in.

Having almost reached the end of the three hours, too drunk to continue, I wandered into Angel Dominguez’s performance and lay down. Others continued to drink and talk at the table.

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