Nothing New, Ever?

Posted: January 27, 2019 in Uncategorized

Boredom Studies is an increasingly rich and vital area of contemporary research that examines the experience of boredom as an importan – even quintessential – condition of modern life. This anthology of newly commissioned essays focuses on the historical and theoretical potential of this modern condition, connecting boredom studies with parallel discourses such as affect theory and highlighting possible avenues of future research. Spanning sociology, history, art, philosophy and cultural studies, the book considers boredom as a mass response to the atrophy of experience characteristic of a highly mechanised and urbanised social life.

Andreas Gursky
The Rhine II (1999)
[The 2nd most expensive photograph ever sold.]

Eugenie Shinkle
Reader in Photography
Westminster School of Media Art and Design, London, UK

  1. Abby Citterman says:

    I think that Emotion’s study is beyond interesting. The finding that people aged 25 are, on average, four times more likely to experience boredom is not a surprise, but without them weighing in on the reason for this correlation, it leads to many questions, and equally as many possibilities to justify this trend. The best explanation I could come up with is the over-stimulation younger people have been exposed to since a young age. Many of us grew accustomed to having an infinite reserve of toys, technologies, and as a result, learned that boredom can be avoided by jumping from videogame to videogame, or stuffed animal to doll. We had three screens in front of us, and now we cannot imagine what it would be like without them all. Watching TV while working on your laptop and scrolling through your phone, multitasking not as a skill, but as a way of keeping yourself stimulated. We did not experience the need for imagination to step in and keep ourselves entertained for hours; we would just switch toys. I feel as though this greatly stunted a generation’s ability to stick with something, some one thing, and maintain interest.

    Additionally, exposure to a world of possibilities could result in one feeling bored with where they may be, either geographically or in life. Social media has the power to show you the great things others are experiencing, and within the lens of a perfect life on social media, anyone could feel as though they aren’t living as wonderful or fulfilling a life as someone they see. I know that, after visiting Utah, Illinois felt boring. I felt as though the environment there was just not interesting enough. Grass is always greener, I suppose, and while such desires to be in another place or another situation may inspire some to work hard, for others it can invoke immense boredom.

    There is one part that I simply could not formulate a good guess on, however. The strongest correlation was not age, it turns out, but rather, gender. Men are far more likely to experience boredom than women, and I cannot come up with a logical explanation as to why that is.

    • I think your suggestions are largely correct. It is simply to easy, in today’s word of handheld everything, to jump from one distraction to another. It might also be worth considering that while we can indeed grow our brains through behaving either one way or another, human evolution can’t possibly keep pace with technological evolution. Consequently, we are now all but utterly overwhelmed by our digital environment. Because we can be more productive through technology, our capitalist society demands that we MUST be more productive. Consequently, it is no longer a rare phenomenon to see persons literally working themselves to death. This is an alarmingly common phenomenon in Japan and Korea. Even if we don’t die from out jobs, the will make the majority of us deeply depressed. One last thing to consider is the from time immemorial, a major component of enjoying anything was the interval of waiting for it. We thought about the object or experience and get a negative pleasure from being denied immediate access to it. And our pleasure increased when the moment of direct access finally arrived. But how little of the component of remains in today’s culture of immediate gratification. I want a toy, so I go on line and it is delivered to my door in 24 hours. I want a piece of information, so I Google the answer to my question. Young person today simply can’t have an appreciation for what it meant only two decades ago to spend hours or weeks or years combing through the aisles and aisles of books in the library, hoping to track down an elusive fact. This was once consider a quest, and adventure. That amazing experience is now only to be found in fantasy movies, most of which we can access instantaneously on Netflix.

  2. ColinHancock says:

    The conversation we had in class about boredom and its relation to kitsch culture really sticked with me. I looked at the things I do for ‘recreation’ and Greenberg’s arguments instantly made more sense. People are so overworked that they don’t have time to pay attention to art that is meant to stir up feelings and provoke thoughts. In my case, I feel so tired after most days that all I have energy for is looking through social media. And that makes so much sense in the context of capitalism. If people are worked so much that their minds are numb during their time off, then they will purchase and engage with more mass-produced garbage. That is, you squeeze the production out of people and then sell them easily-digestible art. It’s like doubling how much you make off of each person. I feel like this only encourages industries to overwork their employees, because it will result in more income when all they can afford (both fiscally and mentally) is kitsch artwork. Tying this back also to T.S. Elliot’s description of an Alexandrian art scene, it seems like kitsch is just an extension of the practice of meticulously copying established methods of art. Taking the film industry, for example, it becomes exceedingly apparent why so many franchises pump out dulling sequels rather than explore new concepts. Not only is producing poor quality cinema cheaper, but people also have a lot more energy for something that does not challenge or intrigue them. Perhaps this also has an impact on avant-garde artists as well. If artists have jobs to support themselves outside of their artistry, then perhaps they, too, are overworked and have no energy to express themselves in an avant-garde way. Instead, they may only have the energy to produce kitsch work, or they may not have the energy to produce any art at all. Just a thought!

    • Part of the fatigue you mention comes from too much physical labor. We can experience the same from manual labor. But another real concern is fatigue from overstimulation. Not only is bad art the dominant art of our society, Greenberg argues, but it is also thrust upon us in more unbearable doses. Music surrounds us everywhere and at all times, as do advertising images, which creep over in ever more unlikely places. There is scarcely a surface in our environment, including the land itself, which is not constantly crying for our attention. This can be fatiguing as well. Last night, for instance, I made a visit to one of the worst places I know, Smith’s Marketplace. Between all product names and placements, the advertisements within advertisements, the imposed music, and the insanely cheery voice reminders interrupting it, I was able to endure only five minutes or so. I had to get out of the there. But between me and my escape was the ordeal of the robot assistant ‘working’ the self-checkout. That annoying voice which kept bossing me around with the sunniest mandates – “please place your item in the bagging area! please remove last item from the bagging area! – was too much. While Greenberg was harder a fan of installation and site-specific art (topics we’ll cover later), he certainly would have wanted us to pay far more attention to the way we design the spaces in which we live – for aesthetic, but also for political reasons.

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