#2: On Hold

@Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Leiden, the Netherlands

Apart from the enormous amount of children franticly pushing buttons on interactive installations, the most striking observation in Naturalis, is the adults that are apparently put ‘on hold’. It looks as though they’ve come to a complete standstill, wearing vacant expressions gazing into oblivion.

In their apathy they resemble the stuffed animals from the exhibition. As if they are supposed to portray active and involved parents who are doing fun stuff with their kids just like the puma who seems to be frozen during a jump in mid-air.


The more active specimens follow a predefined routine, their actions and routing dictated by the program. No spontaneity and no unexpected events that are so characteristic in real life. Obediently they point out ‘interesting items’ in the exhibition when they’re supposed to, just like the cardboard Freek Vonk figures.

IMG_7774 2
© FvL

Our idea for the performance ‘On hold’ was inspired by these immobilised adults. What would happen if we as a group would just come to a standstill, and gaze into nothingness amidst the crowd.
Remarkably, nothing happens. At least not with the rest of the crowd. People just manoeuvre around you, not at all alarmed by your apathetic behaviour.
But what does happen is that the performers sort of ended up in a parallel space, like a vacuum. Because you mimic their behaviour, you are truly ‘on hold’ too. It seems like you’ve stopped, and the world passes you by like a film. But you’re not part of it anymore.