Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art Symposium: Twenty Years of Boredom

16 December 2017, 11:00 am–6:00 pm

Twenty Years of Boredom

Event Information

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IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Twenty Years of Boredom takes as its starting point the exhibition On Boredom, a CD ROM published by Cambridge Darkroom Gallery and launched at the ICA, London, in 1997. The project was curated by Susan Morris, with essays by Andrew Benjamin and David Bate. On Boredom brought together artists who had only recently started working with 'new technology'. Many of the works consisted of short, repetitive loops which used small, low resolution, image, sound or text files. The artists were working within the constraints placed on them by computers with extremely slow processing power and virtually no storage space. Yet the outlook at the time was optimistic with, for example, Sadie Plant, author of Zero and Ones: Digital Women and the New Technoculture (also published in 1997) proposing technology as an emancipatory force. On Boredom explored the impact of technology on the creative process, while also considering the critical stakes of an affect or state of mind that is conventionally characterised as unproductive.

This outlook may have changed, the possibilities of technology are now very different, as is the experience of boredom. Twenty Years of Boredom will explore current technologies of communication, surveillance and automation and their relationship to boredom in the contemporary moment. Boredom can be regarded as a kind of essential solitude tied in with wider notions of suspense, inattention, repetition, ennui, as well as experiences of aloneness, detachment, torpor, paralysis or inertia. Ironically, these states are often considered essential for something like an analysis - the speaking cure - which is often cited as too slow, too time consuming (and too expensive) when set against more 'quick fix' approaches such as medication and CBT. With the above in mind, this symposium asks what the critical possibilities of boredom might be in a society in which the very possibility of inactivity has been thrown into question.

Speakers: Susan Morris, Briony Fer, Michael Newman, Josh Cohen, Anouchka Grose, Martin Creed, Mathew Hale, Margaret Iverson, Tom McCarthy, Rye Holmboe.

Download the poster here and please register here.