Sitting With It — Liz Stainforth

Sitting has always been a favourite activity of mine, certainly to the detriment of other things in my life. And my working life has been more or less sedentary for many years. As an invigilator, I sat with art a lot, so much so that it became invisible and I could barely take in my surroundings anymore. The art on the walls, but also the act of sitting, being ‘vigilant’, all resolved itself into a kind of blank stupor. In office work, the quality of the seating improved and I enrolled myself in the art of ensuring as many tasks as possible could be completed from my chair.

The countless hours spent online during the pandemic introduced a new phase of sitting. Whether chairing a meeting, taking the hotseat in a lecture, or putting my feet up on a social call, I was transformed into a neatly delineated, socially isolated talking head-in-a-box. Once, during this online regime, I saw two people sitting together on the screen. It was such a relief to feel, even vicariously, their closeness, throwing my own flat, boxed existence into sharp relief.

Where I sit, when, and for what purpose, tell me something about how I live now. And those elements which are missing speak to how I could live differently. If the now is a time of work-discipline, then the hopeful time is one of revival, when ‘sitting with’ is not a numbing weight, but a way of being together, not an obligation, but a shared occupation.

Dr Liz Stainforth, Lecturer
School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies