Worldwide media echo for doing nothing scholarship of the Hamburg University of the Arts.


1700 interested people applied for the non-activity scholarship of the Hamburg Art Academy HFBK. The three winners will be invited to participate in the exhibition “School of Consequencelessness. Exercises for a different life”.

An Indian woman who no longer wants to justify herself, an African-American pastor who no longer wants to be afraid or a German teacher who no longer wants to produce garbage. The Scholarship for Doing Nothing at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts (HFBK) has met with interest all over the world. The large number and variety of applicants came as an absolute surprise, said project initiator Friedrich von Borries.

On the day of the application deadline on Tuesday, the architect and professor of design theory will be sitting at a long, wide table in his office at the Hamburg College of Art. On this day alone, he received a good 150 letters with applications. Some of the envelopes are colorfully decorated, others are plain – one of them has “NOTHING” written on it in capital letters. In the middle of the room are three boxes filled to the top – applications that Borries has already looked through.

From the abundance of applications the jury must now choose three winners. A one-off sum of 1600 euros each awaits the three scholarship holders. This will enable them to realize their project of doing nothing.

“We have received applications from all parts of the world,” he says. By the closing date for applications, 1700 applications had already been received. The project initiator assumes that there will be at least 2000 by the end – the postmark does not count as the date of receipt for the deadline. Originally he had only expected 200 letters.

“A fundamental question, what one does not want to do”

“There’s some great stuff in there!”, said von Borries. From Hong Kong, for example, democracy activists have applied who do not want to betray their comrades-in-arms in case of arrest. “At the same time, however, we are also getting the applications that I had expected a bit,” says von Borries, citing as examples criticism of capitalism (“I don’t want to work for a certain period of time”) or esoteric (“I don’t want to have any more negative moods”). “In other words, a very broad spectrum ranging from ecological to political and social issues,” he summarizes.

“We have very little jokes,” the professor says. Many applicants are interested in taking political action – on a very small scale, in their immediate surroundings and against a self-perceived feeling of powerlessness. “Very few are actually interested in the 1600 euros – but rather in a fundamental question of what one does not want to do,” von Borries describes the field of applicants.

“School of inconsequentiality

The scholarship is not a career advancement, but an impulse to support people to think in a different direction. “These can also be people who like to sit on the sofa and put their legs up,” says the university lecturer. The three winners will then be invited to the exhibition “School of Consequentiality. Exercises for a different life”, which will be on display at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MK&G ) from November onwards. But no application is in vain, emphasizes von Borries. All plans for doing nothing will be presented in the context of the exhibition. The money was provided by the Leinemann Foundation.

Von Borries was also surprised by the worldwide media interest in the scholarship. Among others, the “Guardian”, the BBC and Fox News reported on the event. According to von Borries, he has conducted interviews with news channels from India, China, Russia, Bulgaria and Africa. However, there were hardly any hostilities.

Despite the large number of applications, he has decided to cancel many of them personally. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage that,” says von Borries. But there is one thing he would like to give them one thing to take with them: to surrender to doing nothing anyway.



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