boredom

“You just gotta get to your studio everyday and do nothing but sweep up and eventually you get bored and you’ll try not to be bored and then that’s the beginning of creativity.” – John Baldessari

“Boredom always contains an awareness of being trapped, either in a particular situation or in the world as a whole.” – Lars Svendsen

Boredom is an increasing phenomenon. We find it difficult to pin down; is it an emotion, or rather a state of mind? We are all familiar with it, and probably most people have an opinion about it. There is likely more than one species of boredom, but we can say categorically that everyone likes boredom when it stops. It is an unpleasant state of mind/emotion, which motivates action to end it. Of course, part of the problem with being bored is that there are no certain ways out: pure activity, such as watching television, or having a conversation, is not guaranteed to mitigate it. Sometimes boredom even forces us into behavior that departs from social norms, or is arbitrary.

If boredom can engender actions that have a random character—then it is possible that some artists, consciously or sub-consciously, may actually choreograph situations in which boredom may be experienced. John Baldessari freely admits this, and his peer, Bruce Nauman, has described walking obsessively around his studio racking his brain for an idea for an artwork. His video “Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square” is but one of his Studio Films that have been written about in connection with boredom.

If a sense of boredom is consciously/subconsciously induced by artists who wish to randomize (and/or de-author) their artistic practice, then this sense of boredom has an overlap with a sense of “coolness.” Looking cool and looking bored are often visually similar. How cool was Andy Warhol? It could be that some artists realize that by occasioning boredom in their artistic practice, the resulting artworks—and the artists, by extension—are more likely to be apprehended as cool.

For the ninth exhibition at Essays and Observations, we have invited the artists Carla Åhlander, David Levine, Felix & Mumford, Gernot Wieland, and Laura Pankau to explore the phenomenon of boredom.

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