A Visual Exploration of ‘Sitting’ as an Action and Idea

‘The Act Of Sitting’ is a series of portraits of individuals of various backgrounds in their homes in New York, Vienna, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Senegal, and other locations worldwide. The imagery was shot through a digital video conference system during the global COVID-19 lockdown between March and July 2020. The project was a highly collaborative one, where each subject was asked to present their interpretation of ‘sitting’ for each shoot.

Because of the current pandemic and its drastic limitations on personal freedoms, we have been asked to stand still, to ‘sit through’ this. What happens within us when we are pulled away from our routines, our physical and social surroundings, and ‘sitting’ at home in isolation suddenly becomes the main reality of our lives?

The project’s concept is based on the observation of the physical act of ‘sitting,’ and the various meanings attached to it — social, cultural, as well within the context of photography (ie, ’sitting for a photograph’). The intention was to ask a question: how can a word associated with a position of rest and inactivity instead becom a political, performative, and artistic act? Sitting not as a passive attitude but as an activity that is relevant to the individual as well as the collective.

Graz / 21 04 2020 / 1:30 pm (MESZ) / AT

The art of sitting.
For me the art of sitting means to relax means to stop to breath and
to think. Thinking to create thinking to create something creative
or to simply think (reflect). It means that I want to relax my body
and feel the chair and to move my body within it and I want that
chair to be comfortable to me I want a comfortable position I want
that my body, in some way, to be tangled in the chair as if the chair

NYC / 28 04 2020 / 9 am (EST) / USA

I’m fine being alone.
I’m fine being alone.
I’m fine being alone.
I’m fine being alone.
I’m fine being alone.
I’m fine being alone.
I’m fine being alone.
I’m fine being alone.

NYC / 03 05 2020 /  2:20 pm (EST) / USA

At the beginning of Covid-19, I remember doing a lot of standing, I would cook standing, I would eat standing, I would read standing, be absorbed in the news on my phone or on my laptop standing. A lot of wandering around, pacing, going up and down the stairs. I think this really prevented me from, you know, actually absorbing what was going on. It was sort of a mechanism for me to almost protect myself. I think. Since itës so active, the settling does not happen. So for me, when I think of the act of sitting, I think of it is actually a brief respite from everything. It is actually taking stock of everything and succumbing to the exhaustion that is both emotional and physical, especially in times like these, in times of political unrest and racial injustice, as well as, of course, the pandemic that precipitated all of this. So, you know, sitting is this way to literally just sit with your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions and really sort of start to plan how to move forward. I think you've taken a lot of time figuring out how to recuperate. Ironically, Iëm the type of person that actually needs physical action to heal and to recuperate. but sitting for me, at least recently, has become another part of that healing toolkit for me.

© anna—maria ritsch