On the benefit of being bored

O'Neill, Mary (2004) On the benefit of being bored. In: Conception Reception. Annual conference of the Association of Art Historians, November 2004, Bristol.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


Adam Philips describes boredom as 'integral to the process of taking one's time.' Ephemeral art is work both of and in time. It requires the time to view what might in fact be a very boring process; watching flowers decay, ice melting or a mound of sweets erode, but it also requires time to experience these works.

In this paper, I will examine two ephemeral art works: Felix Gonzalez-Torres' Untitled (Public Opinion) (1991) and Zoë Leonard's Strange Fruit (For David) (1992 - 1997). Both of these works centralize the phenomenon of boredom, which reflects the incessant monotony of mourning. In the endlessly repeatable work of Gonzalez-Torres, the seemingly inconsequential act of eating a sweet takes on a greater significance when we are told that the weight of the pile of sweets is equal to the weight of this deceased lover. Being repeatable, this is not mourning that will come to an end, but in fact, will go on and on. In Leonard's Strange Fruit the sisyphean task of repairing fruit skins also reflects the sense of endlessness and futility common to feelings of mourning and boredom. Through these works, I will explore boredom as a form of mourning - mourning for desire, and as a transitional phase in which we must allow desire to develop. While mourning offers us the opportunity to repair our sense of self following a bereavement, boredom, allows our sense of self to emerges through the development of desire.

Keywords:Boredom, Contemporary art, mourning, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Zoë Leonard, Strange Fruit (For David) (1992 - 1997)
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
ID Code:4063
Deposited On:22 Feb 2011 21:32

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