Since 2013 we, Shinobu Akimoto and Matthew Evans have acted as co-directors of Residency for Artists on Hiatus (RFAOH) a virtual (online) yet functioning residency for artists currently not making or presenting art.  Since its inception, we have hosted 19 artists from around the world who have used the time away from their respective art practices to invest in other pursuits that, if no less creative, they did not consider within the scope of their work, or to re-examine notions and their expectations of “art career and see if its worth continuing.   Some example endeavours included group meditation, organic gardening, home brewing, or reshaping a college art program as a department head.


Stemming from our own personal queries into the relationship between art and life as well as the institutional parameters around “artist identity, RFAOH has highlighted the precarious space many artists find themselves in throughout their careers, and how they perceive or negotiate such times and conditions.  Since our last residency term in 2017, we have with a few hiatuses of our own been working on a publication [RFAOH annual report] to document this project, while quietly hoping some major art institution will come around to fund us so that we can start a new residency term.


In some ways, this project foreshadowed the current world condition imposed by the pandemic where many of us have involuntarily entered into a kind of hiatus from normal life, sequestered in our homes, away from our communities.  To this predicament, we can offer the idea that non-production or waiting/anticipation constitutes a conceptual limbo space of unknowable possibility, and that language and rhetoric as imperfect containers for meaning can lend a plasticity in interpreting or negotiating our unpredictable world.  We also have an intuitive faith in nonsense as an arena where important questions may freely emerge in ways that can break down hierarchies, or foster new modes of understanding and ultimately, empathy.  What will be the limits and liminalities of future professional practice, our economies or fundamental human interactions?  What is the potential of rhetoric in shaping these things and our individual predicaments?


For us personally, the whole “new normal had already started in 2019, when circumstances required Shinobu to relocate and establish a RFAOH “satellite office in Japan while Matt has remained at “RFAOH headquarters in Canada.  Since then, a good percentage of our own interaction has moved to the virtual space of online.  Responding to the invitation from OBIEG for the “right to idleness issue, we share snippets of our daily dialogues and (non)activities from June 2020 our “non-production production.






What has changed for artists and artists on hiatus?

M: Hey

S: Hey its a different background.

M: Its a different background?

S: Right? 

M: Is it? its the same.

S: Yeah, Im sitting on an angle.

Im sitting usually like this,

...but today Im sitting like, on this angle.

M: Oh, I thought you were talking

about my background.

S: No.





Relevancy of (art)making and/or
Meaning of non-production, non-participation


S: But anyway, Im right in the middle

of production, See...?

M: Oh, the berries from    









S: I know, its quite a...like...so the seeds, are pretty tough,

unlike raspberries and other berries

you dont want to have them so Im removing all of them,

but its kind of impossible so I decided to blend it first,

and then Im, what do you call it... sieving it


M: Sieving it, Straining it     



    S: Yeah... and then, after this I have to cook it again,

    and oh my goodness I started with 700 grams of berries  

    but then its only going to be like 5 jars or something.





M: Oh, thats pretty good though.






Is the rest of the world catching up with us, artists?
Or is it drowning us out?

S: Heeey

Chiko: Nya~~

M: Hey Chiko. Meow meow meow meow meow meow,

Whats up?!

Chiko: Nya~~  Nya~~

S: She answered, did you hear?

M: She says “hey!  
Whats going on, you rascal?

S: Gohan aruyo~ hora, douzo douzo,
Hai, takusan tabete. 
She was like, “Man what was that??

M: She sounds genki

S: No, she just came in.

M: She just came in?






(Measures of) Success, happiness in multiple realities 


M: But know what happened?      

The baby birds are trying to fly      

now right? And they do      

that shaky thing they do.    




S: Yeah thats so cute


M: And that big tree thats just in front of the balcony,

I was out there last evening just playing some guitar

and this one baby came up and watched and

was going peep peep peep making this song. 

So I tried to mimic it on the guitar and then three more

came and they were like this little audience on the branch

while I kept trying to make these bird noises and they

were answering me like we were having this back and forth.



    S: Thats cute but I know exactly what you mean

     because I do it with crows from the roof.










Virtual science, Virtual art, Virtual existence 
(Pseudo science, pseudo art, pseudo existence) 

S: Would there be anyone inventing a type of Zoom

where everyone can talk all at once?

M: I dont know, thats funny though

they should do it just to encourage chaos.

S: Yeah. Wouldnt that be..., I mean Im sure people

are looking into it though, if this has to go on for a while,

its tedious to just have to sit and listen,

I think people want this everyone talking

at the same time to make it as natural as possible.

M: Yeah?

S: Im sure someone is looking into it.

M: Like what happens now is whoever is talking

it just switches to who has the loudest signal, so..

S: But wouldnt that be neat if someone

came up with that though?

M: Yeah maybe.

S: Then we really dont have to go anywhere.

M: But then you would need to be able

to pair off or create groups in

a separate window or something.

S: Well, they can put the limit on the number, like,

“Yeah, we came up with this simultaneous-talk

chat system but we can only have

10 people in the room.

M: So people can argue in real time,

and talk over each other.

S: Oh that would be fun.





Abnomalized normal and normalized abnormal


S: So Saturday is a good radio day,

but I cant even remember what Peter Barakan played.

M: Ohh,

S: I dont know what happened, this is crazy,

my memory totally dropped.  Do you think I have a condition?

Like seriously? ‘Cause its really hard to remember. 

I mean I did go out to the yard during that time.

Its a nice time in the morning, and I look at all the flowers

and all that. But still um.... I dont know what happened.

M: Hmm

S: Wow. This is so creepy. I think Im losing...

Im having some condition Matt.


M: It sounds like you were out and

distracted with something else.



    S: But for 4 hours? Thats a little crazy though. 

    I think I was mostly in the yard

    but its a little...disconcerting.






M: Hmm

S: I just dont know what I was doing,

I cant remember anything. 

Are you not worried?

M: No

S: I am a little bit.




M: I think its normal to every once     

in a while get that.    

I guess because Im always like that.    








Mental Aikido and Institution in your head

M: How was your day?

S: Well the first thing I have to tell you, is last night, 

uh, I went to bed at one maybe, and then around 3 oclock

I felt this, like sharp, uh, something pain, um.. not even pain, 

its like.. when a cat...you know how it exactly felt is like

you know how a cat, say Chiko scratched me but with one...

M: Yeah, like pricks you..

S: Like “キッ pretty hard, on my.. one of my , um... toes.

Like exactly... on one toe kind of thing..

Anyway it totally woke me up, I was like “what was that??

Did Chiko do that? and I woke up and oh my goodness,

I knew already, like what it was, right? I mean,

I didnt know but I knew there was something right,

because Chiko wasnt there doing that. 

And I turned the light on and Im looking

and saw just the snippet of that, here you go,

I knew, I knew. Before anything I had to come to the kitchen

to grab those tongs, the special tongs, and then

so I went back and I was just like, peeling the futon,

and man, it was HUUGE!

M: Really? Thats scary

S: Oh may goodness, like

I havent seen such a huge thing in a while

M: Wow!

S: Anyway, yesterday, it was like., OK,

a thickness of a centimetre.

And the length of ten.

M: Wow! I dont wanna

visit Japan when I hear that.

S: It wasnt right in the futon or anything,

it didt really attack me or anything.

Thats not their purpose.

M: Yeah, they are just protecting themselves.

S: Probably, I just moved or touched

or something like that, so it went really lightly

or touched accidentally something like that

but it was really a sharp feeling.

M: Yeah, they have big teeth

S: So I grabbed it and went to the back

and threw it over the cliff and can you believe,

it was so big it made noise.

M: When it landed? 

I wouldnt be able to go back to sleep.

S: I felt traumatized and I actually sat there

for a while. I didnt know how to process it.

M: You probably moved really quickly

before it could get a good bite.

S: No, no no, no I  dont think so,

why is everyone, like you know

all the people have that perception though?

This is the thing, it tells how the world works,

“oh those are bad guys, they do that kind of thing  

Its not that, they dont do it Matt,

theyd rather avoid a fight, right?

They are not that aggressive,

They dont attack unless they are attacked

M: No but I meant it must have moved quickly

out of the way. You were lucky then.

S: but it was a huge deal. I felt totally lost

M: Id be wetting the bed after that






Luck, privilege, circumstance, lifestyle, creativity, empathy, all for survival


S: Is there anything coming back though?

M: Well the little one on the, um...

S: ...the balcony.

M: ...on the balcony has some sprouts

but Im not sure if theyre weeds

or if theyre flowers.

S: Well you should just let them be

because you dont know.

Or you can take a photo and show me

because I can tell you.



M: And the tomato one is just dead,     

just these branches sticking out      

from last year     






    S: Well sometimes tomatoes

    come back though.








M: These ones dont look like

theyre coming anywhere. 

And Im really bummed my coriander

that was doing great all winter

has suddenly given up and I dont know why.

Its just suddenly decided its not...

S: Corianders are not

perennial though,

coriander you harvest the seeds

and then put them in.

M: Anyways its not looking too good,

but it lasted all winter,

I was impressed.

S: Thats crazy,

corianders die after the summer.

M: Not these ones,

they lasted right up until two weeks ago

and now...

S: Are you sure theyre coriander

or are you talking about Thai basil?

M: Or maybe its the Thai basil ones.

S: Yeah Corianders dont...

M: No, the Thai basil ones,

I know the Thai Basil ones...

or is it mint

S: Yeah, whatever I...

M: I dont have the horticultural expertise...

S: I dont trust anything youre saying

because you have no idea.

Corianders never last through the winter.

And in Canada? Thats a miracle.

M: hmm...

Maybe it was a coriander looking weed

and Ive been eating weed all winter.

S: And you cant even taste the difference

from Thai basil or a weed? 

You do still have the Covid.





A native of Japan, Shinobu Akimoto started living and working in Canada in the early 1990s and became known as a visual artist through national and international presentations of her “project-based installations. Preoccupied with the concept of artmaking as lifestyle, her projects have explored the intersection between lifestyle and creativity in such a way that begs the question of what, if anything, demarcates art apart from all other types of creative endeavours, or artists from other creative individuals.  Currently dividing her time between Canada and stuck in Japan, she contemplates on alternative strategies for engaging in contemporary art through extended means and pathways, while continuing to use artmaking as a way to follow the lifestyle she wants to live.  


Matthew Evans is a Canadian artist and medical illustrator based stuck in Montreal, whose projects explore a fluid understanding of context and its relationship with the creative process.  Waiting or killing time as a conceptual sphere where everything and nothing conceivably and simultaneously happens, is a theme he has repeatedly returned to. He also spends probably too much time playing guitar.


Akimoto and Evans have collaborated at various times in the past.  At other times, both artists have gone on hiatus from their artistic practices.