Open City

The Self Destructive Book Club: Rest is Ugly

Over the next two years, WORM’s Open City will be exploring four themes that we understand as some of the core experiences of city life: rest, home, movement, and failure. The WORM Pirate Bay’s Self Destructing Book club is a way to connect with the citizens of our open city, and to research together how we understand these themes. The concept of this book club is simple: we invite a small group of people to join our discussion and to bring a text. The only rule is that no person can bring the same text.

Back in March, we hosted a digital first edition of the book club. Six participants gathered online to discuss the first theme, Rest. The subject of rest came at an excellent time, as we were already being forced to stay home and self-isolate. Each participant approached the topic from an alternative personal perspective but, it seemed that one topic came up again and again: the relationship between rest and power. 

Throughout the evening, we discussed how rest has become commoditized as part of the ‘wellness’ industry with connotations of wealth and exclusivity. Participants observed how the media mock these women within this industry. One of the participants, a yoga instructor, felt yoga specifically is harmed by society’s perception of it. She concluded, rest is not a beautiful process like it is advertised. Rest is ugly. True rest is not perfectly choreographed, non-sweaty zen, it is way more than this. It is about being truly comfortable, baggy sweats, your favourite pizza-stained t-shirt, warts and all.

Together, participants came up with the concept  “Industrialisation of care” and began to examine the power structures behind the ideas of rest and wellness. We noticed that we are not conditioned to accept rest as a necessity, and it has instead become an industry that only the lucky few can experience. One of the participants described how wellness is seen as the sole responsibility of the individual, and the ways that businesses feed off our inability to rest. The penny dropped. The word ‘‘self’ in self-care. 

Another topic that emerged was the intersection between solitude and rest. This conversation was sparked by an excerpt of Bell hooks’ All About Love. In the excerpt, Hooks connects solitude to the richness of rest.  Conditions for rest are created by confronting emotions such as loneliness. In other words, we have to learn to sit with ourselves. The fear of this is what may get in the way of true rest.

Many noticed that we often seek external validation to avoid internal work. We hide from individual responsibility by moving with the wave of community. We are seduced by the idea of belonging. Rest is simply not seductive, it isn’t cool or glamorous. The world caters to our escapism. Rest is the opposite of this.

Understanding the need for a physical space to relax, we discussed how institutions have impacted this. We recognised that we are so far into an event-based mentality that these slow and constant spaces are hard to fund or create. You cannot market space for vulnerability unless it culminates in an event, which is also how funding is allocated to institutions. We understand the need to move from outcome-based initiatives. Events do not accommodate rest.

In the current digital sphere, we notice the newfound urgency within the art sector regarding online presence. We are constantly moving and looking for the ‘next’ thing. We do not account for rest in this space, it simply has no place.

As we moved to the final reading, we took a second to reflect on how childhood affects our perception of rest. How were we taught rest? A time-out is seen as a punishment, so is detention. As adults, how do we connect rest to punishment? 

The idea of stillness was the main concept of the final text, Yoga, Mind & Spirit, A Return To Wholeness by Dona Farhi. It described how it can be difficult and confronting for us to be comfortable with stillness. Yin Yoga is concentrated on extended pose holding, the freedom of surrendering and trust in letting go. It is an active state of rest. We inspected  how we were conditioned to think of stillness as a bad thing. Each participant experienced a type of anxiety when just sitting in public.  moved for too long in public. In a culture of busyness, it becomes uncomfortable to stop still.  And Silence becomes scary  for those who are not used to it.

The book club concluded with the observation that rest can only come from the practice of unlearning. Together, we can move forwards and allow ourselves to learn how to be restful both internally, and also, encourage the practice in others. Now, breathe.


Bolo’bolo – P.M/HANS WIDMER
The Nap Ministry – TRICIA HERSEY
Main website, which also links to Instagram & Facebook.

Article: Kendal Beynon

UBIK Speeds Relief to Head and Stomach! Art Rotterdam 2017


Christian Rønn in WORM Sound Studios


WORM Summer Residency: MINT

Open City

The Red Bra: A Conversation with Artist Marta Wörner