Research Plan

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Title e Creative Potential of Boredom Abstract is artistic research project examines, from a Western cultural perspective, the use of boredom in the arts throughout history with special emphasis on the second half of the 20th century up to the contemporary times. e aim of this research is to explore the creative or critical potential of boredom through artistic practice, inspired by the writings and artworks on the modern experience of this condition. e collected documentation will serve as the basis for an artistic project in which I explore how to use this state of mind as a starting point and as a source of creativity within the framework of conceptual and performance art. Methodology, material, and artworks resulting from the practice will be shared through a series of performances and exhibitions in the course of this research period. Purpose and aims e most obvious reason that boredom should be of interest to us, sociologically, is that its very existence, particularly in capitalist societies, is di cult to explain. ere have never been more things to do, more ways and means to entertain oneself, yet the boredom is greater than ever. Boredom today is not the same as it was decades ago and it continues to change over the years. e problem that many sociologists talk about today is that there are many di culties in maintaining attention over a long period of time and this prevents the development of genuine and deep interests and the authentic experience of life. e industrial changes in labour and increased bureaucracy combined with the rise of mass society, mass production, and consumerism in the late nineteenth century have contributed to the increase in the experience of boredom, according to most writings on the subject. In fact, boredom could be considered ubiquitous, at least in western culture. (Kenny, 2009:1). is artistic research project addresses and embraces boredom in its multiple and uncertain reality. Material from philosophers, sociologists, literary theorists, psychoanalysts and artists has been gathered over the last decades in many books dealing with this condition, yet there are di erent views and positions on this concept, which extend from a malign condition to be struggled against to an experience to be embraced, or explored as a site of resistance. (McDonough, 2017). is research aims to produce an overview of the subject and to re ect on the meaning of boredom today. By drawing information from European and American writings and art works that throughout history have used this state of mind as an inspiration and method of creation, this project contributes to the theoretical and practical body of reference material that can be used by researchers and artists in future studies in the eld. e theoretical framework gathered will inform the artistic practice of this research in which I investigate - with di erent groups of artists and myself - how to develop a deliberate practice of boredom and to what extent this state of mind could serve as a creative tool. e results of the practice are approached from an experimental, innovative and interdisciplinary perspective with the purpose of giving more visibility to a concept so familiar to all of us but which we continually try to avoid. It also examines and displays the ambivalences and complexities inherent in the experience of boredom and it s meaning today in the so-called post-modern, late capitalist or contemporary lifestyle in Western societies. is research does not aim to solve the enigma and problems of this particular condition, but to help deepen and broaden them in creative ways.

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RESEARCH PROPOSAL Iria Arenas


- What does boredom mean in Western cultures today and what are the di erent approaches to this term - How to develop a deliberate practice of boredom and to what extend can conceptual and performance art provide a framework to help address this concept Contextualisation is artistic research project aims to contribute to the eld of social studies, conceptual art, and performance art. It also o ers an alternative to the bad reputation and negative connotation that the concept of boredom has in today s society and suggest di erent approaches to this topic analysing its creative potential in the art eld. What is boredom What is its place today in Western cultures and in the art eld Does this particular state of mind has a form Is boredom a consequence of our consumer-capitalist society that drives us to constantly seek new experiences, or is it a way of responding and resisting to this drive Does being bored signal a fundamental lack of personal and cultural meaning or a moment of potential – a threshold as Walter Benjamin called it – when meaning can and must be created Ultimately, is boredom a positive or negative experience for the individual, for society (Michael E., Julian J., 2017, p.29). Some of these questions constitute the framework on which this research project is based. In literature, already in 18th century, words like ennui were used to describe a condition similar to what we call boredom today. e word boredom as such appeared for the rst time in 1760 (Danckert & Eastwood, 2020:39) and its modern conception develops at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, within the same time period as the establishment of the nation state and the growth of industrialisation and consumerism (Haladyn, 2015). As a term, boredom is an ambiguous and di cult concept to de ne. e word names the experience of a kind of deadlock, one that can be so obdurate and self-referential that the best way of accounting for it may be in its own terms: boredom means being bored. Failing this, one might resort to the use of synonyms – tedium, ennui , but also monotony , dullness, dreariness, weariness, inertia, apathy and so on – knowing that none of these words means the same thing. (Holmboe & Morris, 2021:1).

However we could di erentiate this concept from others in order to have a better understanding of it. If apathy refers to the lack of interest coupled with low motivation, boredom, in contrast, is characterized by a strong drive to be doing something . In other words, the apathetic person doesn t care and the bored person wants to be engaged. (Danckert & Eastwood, 2020:28). Boredom in this research project is considered not in opposition to interest, as is the common sense interpretation, but instead as a possible source for subjectively creating interest where previously none existed. (Haladyn, 2015). With this view I explore how to develop an intentional practice of boredom in order to use this particular emotion as a call to action and motivation for the artist to nd meaning in what may not at rst make sense or failed to capture our attention. By being bored, one connects with the unconscious, the mind slows down, and it is at this very moment that many new impulses can arise. It is then that I am interested in nding out what kind of new and unexpected material can emerge from this particular moment and address the issues mentioned above. It is important to specify this research analyses the state of boredom, not the personality trait of it. As a state, boredom is a concrete and short-lived

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Research questions


Many philosophers have referred to boredom as a state in which human beings connect with their innermost thoughts and ideas. Benjamin writes, boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience (Illuminations, 1968, p. 91), Nietzsche suggested that those (persons) of rare sensibility value boredom as an impetus to achievement: (…) For thinkers and all sensitive spirits, boredom is that disagreeable windless calm of the soul that produces a happy voyage and cheerful winds 1, and John Cage in his book Silence was o ering a serious motto, or manifesto, when he wrote, If something is boring a er two minutes, try it for four. If it is still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty, and so on. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all but very interesting. 2 All of them suggest that the experience of boredom can precede illumination and even that boredom is necessary as an incubation period for such illumination. e debate about the condition of boredom and its bene ts when used correctly has been raised through scienti c ndings and everyday observations (Danckert & Eastwood, 2020). e history of the concept and its importance in modern life has been analysed (Gardiner & Haladyn, 2016) as well as its causes and consequences in the fast-paced twenty- rst century (Mann, 2016). e ambiguity of boredom has been also examined through essays of artists, art historians, psychoanalysts, and a novelist (Holmboe & Morris, 2021). In artistic research, Kenny Lesley (2009) explores phenomenologically the concept of boredom and constructs a cultural collage inspired by Benjamin's method of literary montage, from his monumental Passagenwerk. is dissertation is related to my proposal, as both use the theme of boredom as a sociological meditation and provide an analysis of the ambiguous but pervasive experience of boredom in modernity through artistic works. (2009: ii). Some art exhibitions on the subject are e Structure of Boredom (A er Oden) at Artspeak Gallery in Vancouver, B.C. by Lorna Brown and David Zink Y; Bored at Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York by John Wood and Paul Harrison; and Staring at the Wall: e Art of Boredom at Lawndale Art Center in Houston, by Chris Akin, Seth Alverson, Uta Barth, Jeremy DePrez, Clayton Porter, and Jenny Schlief. is exhibitions feature actions of the body and installations with objects, video, and recordings where things are allowed to happen for no apparent reasons inside a logical world . I nd their way of presenting everyday materials and body actions in relation to boredom very inspiring, uncovering something that it is very familiar from all of us but is not o en shown in public because of its negative connotation in our society. I relate my research interest to these artworks that emerge from situations of boredom. However, some of them are deliberately created on the basis of the preconceived aesthetics of boredom or deliberately seek to bore the audience, which is something I am not necessarily focusing on in this research. My interest lies in those artworks or bodily actions that have not been previously planned, but appear as a result of a situation of boredom or, in other words, those works of art in which the state of boredom has been used as a strategy or driving force for the creation of the artwork itself. It is the mind's "call to action" to confront this uncomfortable state of boredom and the consequent results that I seek to investigate in artistic practice. As a nal note, I want to address the project limitation within this research. It is essential to point out this research is clearly Western focused. Most of the social theorists and philosophers upon whom I draw are German, and much of the academic literature review is North American and English. I am limited by my own language restrictions to access any literature on this subject that may exist in other languages. However, 1

Patricia Meyer Spack, Boredom:

e Literary History of a State of Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), p. 2.

2

Cage, John, Silence: Lectures and Writings (Wesleyan University Press, 1961), p. 93.

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experience that is characterised by feelings of dissatisfaction when we don t engage with something. A personality trait such as trait boredom, however, is not directly noticeable and can last for many years.


Method is research project is theoretical and empirical, qualitative analysis of boredom. Some of the qualitative strategies I will use in this research are: reading a wide variety of literature on the subject of boredom itself, analysing artworks created around this concept, and examining the observations of collaborators and research subjects within the practice. e empirical focus of this research is given by the use of information collected in practice and the analysis of the participants' results. In a rst phase, the activities focus on experimenting with ways to carry out a deliberate practice of boredom in order to create methods that can be applied in practice with collaborators and research subjects. Once these methods that facilitate entry into a bored state of mind have been obtained, we come to the second phase of the practice whose interest lies in using this state of boredom as a medium of mental liberation through which the subject can create material (be it movement, paintings, voice or objects). A series of exhibitions and performances will be carried out throughout the di erent stages of the research to share the outcomes and artworks created during the practice. Input and feedback from the audience and participants will be analysed through studio work, where theoretical and practical re ection sessions will be held to review the material. I acknowledge that because I chose a qualitative, exploratory analysis of boredom, using a non-traditional method, the research lacks a more sustained materialist analysis. is research is based on artistic practice because through art, abstract ideas can take shape and be shared with a wide variety of audiences regardless of their language. Future research could extend what I have started here in terms of a discussion of boredom, its use in the art eld, and the politics of it. Time schedule e project will be carried out as a two-year individual artistic research. Year 1 Spring

gather information on the history of boredom and how this concept has been used throughout the history in the art eld.

Summer

develop the rst deliberate boredom-seeking practice during a 4-week residency in the Czech Republic; write a blog about the process and do a performance-lecture at the end of the residency.

Autumn

use the Research Catalogue and artistic research proposals to inform my process; prepare the contextualisation of the research project.

Winter

continue working on the artistic project practically under the mentoring of Antje Pfundter; present the outcomes of the practice with the working group and request for feedback.

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it is the various practices of Western culture with which I am most familiar and thus it makes good sense to start my project from this perspective. During my practice, I investigate with colleagues whose outcomes are only directly relevant to a more middle-class and western sensibility.


Spring

nalise the contextualisation and work on the methods with collaborators and research subjects; share the outcome and artworks in an exhibition.

Summer

write an article presenting the project and the methodology and publish it in the Research Catalog and other online journals; create a network with other artists working on the subject.

Autumn

organise a 4-weeks residency and a nal workshop to share the methodology with research subjects at Lake Studios Residency in Berlin.

Winter

write a nal article presenting the process and outcomes of the research project; work on the nal exhibition and publication of the research project.

Documentation and exposition e theoretical information collected during this research will be shared in articles and documented in the Research Catalogue as an exposition where text, images, recordings and videos will be added. e outcome of the practice, based on the theoretical framework, will be shared in di erent art spaces by means of performance art and exhibitions. e documentation of the artworks will be also added to the Research Catalogue. At the end of the research a nal performance-lecture will take place where theory and the outcomes of the practice and methods will be shared. Ethical considerations It is important to note that the concept of boredom is understood very di erently in other contexts and cultures. Methodologically, the understanding of boredom and the measurement of its prevalence, even within a culture (which, of course, is not itself a coherent, homogeneous and nite entity) is problematic, if not impossible, given the challenges of de ning the concept and then assigning appropriate indicators. Given that boredom is such an everyday experience and is not o en discussed as, for example, happiness, sadness or frustration, in everyday conversation and in the media of popular culture, it cannot be assumed that people taking part in the practice have access to the same kind of common understanding of the concept .3

Boredom can also be a reason for banditry among young people in Western cultures as many psychologists' claim when is not treated in the right way. If this condition is severe, it can also lead human beings to act recklessly when using other addictive substances - such as alcohol or drugs - to try to calm this feeling of frustration caused by this state of mind. Within this research project I advocate the positive aspects and potential of boredom when it is dealt with in the right way. Participation in this research is voluntary and consensual. Research subjects are informed of the purpose and methods by which the activity will be conducted. Only the results and material of consenting participants will be documented, used and exhibited in this research work anonymously. Contributors who so wish will participate in the documentation process and performances without being anonymised.

3

Lesley, Kenney, BOREDOM SCAPES US: A CULTURAL COLLAGE IN ELEVEN STOREYS (University of Toronto, 2009), p. 169.

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Year 2