There are many ways to kill time on the Internet. Late one night in January, I found myself on Reddit and came across a thread titled, "This guy streams himself sitting and smiling for hours. I'm not sure what to make of it. He's on right now."
So I clicked.
The post, it turned out, was old. The livestream had ended. The link took me to the man’s 25th video. Each video is four hours long, give or take a few minutes, and each features a young man sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor of an undecorated room, with a big cheesy grin stretched across his face. He starts to smile at the beginning of the video and doesn't stop—or do anything else—for the rest of the four hours. Then he turns off the camera.
I tried to watch through the video, "Sitting and Smiling #25," in real time, but I couldn't do it, and I ended up skipping around in it looking for any change, for hints that the video might be a loop, for some explanation of its purpose. I saw him sniff once. I saw the corner of his mouth droop slightly and rise again. If I paid close attention, I made out his chest and shoulders contracting and expanding with his breath, and sometimes saw the vibrations of his head and neck as he strained to keep them straight. For the whole thing there was no sound, just the silence of a webcam recording: a slight buzzing, or scratching, as if it were imitating a vinyl record still spinning after the album has finished.
Some investigation revealed that the videos were made by an artist called Ben Bennett from Columbus, Ohio. He has made a website for the project; he has another website that used to link to his other work but, for at least a week, has just been a grey webpage (although some of its other pages are accessible). Bennett has quite a long performance history, mostly in improvised percussion. There are videos of him dragging chairs around a room and banging drumskins against skirting boards. (You can buy his records here.) His biography, on the page of one concert listing, says that his music is “fully-improvised, with an emphasis on remaining as receptive as possible to the limitless possibilities of any given moment.”