The Power of Nothing
If you set out to review something called Nothing, what should you expect? This piece, presented by the Daisy Chain Inc group as part of the Out to Lunch festival, seems to pleasantly hark back to happenings, a certain hippyish experimental approach to art and life. Let it all hang out, so to speak. But there’s something grittier there, as around twenty to thirty of us discovered in the Green Room at the Black Box on a windy Monday lunchtime. “You can’t beat a free lunch.’ said one guy, and the sandwiches were good.
People talked, about nothingness, and nothing much which turned into something. On a screen some thought provoking slogans appeared, asking what was the value of nothing and so on. A blue lozenge, nothingness presumably and nice, appeared at one point. The self-employed in the room, a fairly vocal majority, said it was hard to escape ideas that might feed into their work. But the non-monetary value of nothingness, or mental space, got some traction – being financially worthless does not mean worthless. Later on, nature, free and available, got a positive mention.
The man with the original idea, Jonny McEwen, said he’d come up with the idea of a nothingness workshop at a conference. He added he’d like to get a group of politicians together to consider nothing. Satire suggests a response. “It’s about three things ‘Pause, possibility, protest.’ but we didn’t want our colleague Adam, an events manager, to make it into an event.”
As McEwen says, nothing is quite a subversive idea in a time and money oriented society. With strikes on and Stormont empty or full of nothingness, the idea seemed resonant as the hour sped by. It was proposed to the City Council as a funded project, when the group could have boasted they got money to do nothing. They fell at the final hurdle and decided to go ahead anyhow, charging of course zilch.
Something was definitely suggested, more open spaces in Belfast for us to be and do a bit of nothing. More benches, maybe. Secular places, definitely. In the past, a church was somewhere you could be and sometimes do nothing, but times have changed.
A poem by Auden on Yeats ended things, with a line about poetry making nothing happen, yet ending up “a mouth”, with a message. Expect more nihilistic announcements soon.Jane Hardy