A university in Germany is offering “idleness grants” to Germans willing to abstain from activity as part of research for an exhibition on sustainability.
The University of Fine Arts in Hamburg said three people will receive the “grant for doing nothing” and be paid $1,900 to engage in a specific form of “active inactivity.”
The school said applicants are free to choose their own form of idleness — an activity to abstain from — and a panel of school officials will choose the three best pitches.
“Doing nothing isn’t very easy,” Friedrich von Borries, the architect and design theorist who designed the program, told The Guardian. “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.”
Von Borries said the period of inactivity is up to the applicant.
“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.”
The school said the grant money will be issued when the chosen applicants submit their experience reports in mid-January. Von Borries said the participants who submit their reports will be paid regardless of whether their attempt at inactivity was successful.
All submitted applications will form part of an exhibition called The School of Inconsequentiality: Towards A Better Life, which is planned for November. The exhibition will explore the question: “What can I refrain from so that my life has fewer negative consequences on the lives of others?”
Von Borries said the idea is to explore the relationship between how society encourages sustainability and how society places value on material success.
“This scholarship program 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?” Von Borries said.