Waiting is defined as a period of time in which we do not know what will come next and in which we battle feelings such as uncertainty, fear, impatience, anger or boredom. It is a state, a condition, an action without activity, a circumstance, but also a space or a situation. The waiting can take place in our everyday lives, in a room, a platform, a detention center, a prison, a camp or in our heads. It can be a queue, a number, a list of names or a washing machine. It can be indecisiveness in which a lifesaving possibility turns into a death sentence or it can be a woman riding out the passage of time while waiting for menopause to release her from the decision on whether or not to commit to motherhood.
People wait for employment, social welfare, education, food, shelter, health care, a place to live and so on. Some are waiting for help, status, social aids, permissions, liberty or diagnosis; others wait for promotions, permissions, rental contracts, salaries, for things to get better, to make a decision or for time to pass. Populations such as international migrants, unemployed people, prisoners or suspects are strong examples of chronic waiting bodies communities.
Because of the assumption that a successful individual contributing to a functioning society should always be on the escalator moving forward and going up, ‘waiting’ is automatically seen as a passive state of standing still, doing nothing and passing time. As much as it is true that we are not showing progress and moving forward while waiting, it does not necessarily mean that this should be seen as a passive state in which we do not move at all. We might not be moving linear and chronological but we are definitely moving otherwise. Research shows that people who are waiting to find a job show this waiting in different ways. For example they hang out in the streets and come together to share their concerns and anxieties about the system. They form a group and take the time to be together and share their situations, discussing what is dysfunctional about it. The waiting doesn’t make them passive but it activates them and makes them stronger by bringing them together.
I wonder why we don’t look at waiting communities as people on strike? How can we turn the passive waiting state into an active, conscious and materialised practice? Can we recover strength and power during these waiting periods? Is there a way to politicise the waiting state and to make it a basis for activism, thoughts and action? Is it possible to create social links and cohesion in these waiting communities?
MEREL SMITT (NL) is an artist based in Rotterdam. She studied directing at the Academy for Performative Arts in Maastricht and has recently completed her Master’s at DAS Theatre (formerly known as DasArts). Her work and artistic practice have been supported by several platforms in the European contemporary art scene such as SICK! Festival (UK), Metropolis Københvn (DK), Oerol (NL), Over Het IJ Festival (NL), Productiehuis Theater Rotterdam (NL), Giungla Festival (IT), STORMOPKOMST (BE), IN-SITU European Network, ACT (Art Climate Change) and other venues and institutions in The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Bucharest, New York, France, Belgium and Italy.
She maintains a situated, performance-based art practice in which she disrupt our everyday life thinking and develops her work together with others through walking, talking, laughing, playing, dancing, mapping, observing, gaming, thinking, organizing, writing, learning and unlearning. She shares her artistic tools with whomever can benefit from it inside and outside the artistic field. Her projects can be seen as methodologies to rethink protests and social movements, occupy spaces and build platforms to come together and exchange.