A German university is offering “idleness grants” to applicants who are seriously committed to doing sweet nothing.
The University of Fine Arts in Hamburg advertised three €1,600 scholarship places on Wednesday to applicants from across Germany. The applicants can submit their anonymous pitches until 15 September and will have to convince a jury that their chosen area of “active inactivity” is particularly impressive or relevant.
The application form consists of only four questions: What do you not want to do? For how long do you not want to do it? Why is it important not to do this thing in particular? Why are you the right person not to do it?
"Doing nothing isn’t very easy,” said Friedrich von Borries, an architect and design theorist who came up with the programme. “We want to focus on active inactivity. If you say you are not going to move for a week, then that’s impressive. If you propose you are not going to move or think, that might be even better.”
The idea behind the project arose from a discussion about the seeming contradiction of a society that promotes sustainability while simultaneously valuing success, Von Borries said. “This scholarship programme is not a joke but an experiment with serious intentions – how can you turn a society that is structured around achievements and accomplishments on its head?”
The university’s bursary will only hand out the grant upon delivery of an “experience report” in the middle of January 2021, though Von Borries said the grant was not contingent on impact, and those who failed to live up to their promise of indolence would not be punished.
Applicants are free to determine the length of their inactivity. “If you say you are not going to sleep, then you can only do that for a couple of days,” Von Borries said. “But if you say you are not going to shop then that’s something you could sustain for a lot longer.”
All applications will form part of an exhibition named The School of Inconsequentiality: Towards A Better Life, opening at the Hamburg university in November. It will be structured around the question: “What can I refrain from so that my life has fewer negative consequences on the lives of others?”