Hesitating Door (2009) – a custom-engineered door operator turns any door into a kinetic sculpture that is swinging, turning itself according to an unpredictable pattern and at variable speed. The door that is neither closed nor open, never confident about its position. 

Portrait of Hesitating Door, All Saints Church, Vilnius, 2009, Julijonas Urbonas.
Photography: Aistė Valiūtė and Daumantas Plechavičius.

If this door choreography says anything at all, it reminds us of the fact that buildings are never empty, even when no human being has entered them. Their space contains a spirit of its own – a spirit that can suddenly wish to exit and then come back in through the door. We can “see” it only by watching the movements of this apparently hesitant, swinging, disobedient door – one that isn’t sure if it wants to let us in yet.


The kinetic sculpture Hesitating Door reminds the viewer about the ambiguous, hesitation-inducing aspect of the door as a phenomenon. Such “foreign elements” as an automatic door-closer and the lock create a fake sense of the door’s stability and predictability, turning it into an everyday functional object that instantly conforms to our will. Open – enter – close, that’s it. Yet in collective imagination the door still remains one of the essential metaphors for hesitation and the mute unknown. Even as we walk in through an open door, we often pause to ask if we can indeed step over the threshold and enter a private space. We also feel uneasy when the draught makes the door open or shut as we approach it (no surprise this is a recurring motif in horror movies), since this gives us an uncanny feeling that the door moves by itself.


Yet what do we ourselves do with doors that don’t have an obsessive habit of returning to the “closed” position? Sometimes we leave them open, inviting guests to come in; half-open – only for those who really need to enter; closed – when we wish to be alone. Yet what is a half-open door, neither wide open nor closed? An undecided, hesitating door. It is one of the best metaphors of the human situation itself. We are often eager to open our minds to others, yet at other times we lock ourselves up from all intruders, and sometimes we leave only a tiny gap for those smart enough to unlock us. We always hesitate as to how much outer reality we should let in.


The original version of the operator was installed in the All Saints Church, Vilnius, in 2009. The second version was reengineered specially for the 10th Kaunas Biennale (curated by Nicolas Bourriaud) to be suitable for almost any swing door.

Door operator of Hesitating Door
Door operator electromechanics of Hesitating Door

The installation was created in 2009 in Vilnius, Lithuania, as a part of the larger project, Talking Doors, which was supported by the national program “Vilnius European Cultural Capital 2009.” The project won a number of awards, one of which was Distinction in the Interactive Art category of Prix Ars Electronica 2010.


Concept and design, electronics, door choreography: Julijonas Urbonas
Photography: Aistė Valiūtė and Daumantas Plechavičius