Vancouver – Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery

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Morris and Helen Belkin

Morris & Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, February 13–June 21, 2009

“Boredom is a warm gray fabric lined on the inside with the most lustrous and colorful of silks. In this fabric we wrap ourselves when we dream,” wrote Walter Benjamin in his musings on Parisian society in the Arcades Project. In a few short paragraphs, he captured a certain dialectical essence of modern boredom—its appearance as lack or disinterest and its inverse potential for reimagining the world. “Boredom,” he continued, “is the threshold to great deeds.”

Whether boredom is a precursor to radical social or artistic change, or whether it remains symptomatic of the tedium of modern life, boredom’s definition is decidedly slippery. It is characterized by a lack; lack of interest, lack of passion, lack of productivity. It suggests a condition that is threatening to modern industrial society. It is often accompanied by a moral taint, as rejection of life or a sin of the leisure class. Yet boredom also carries a latent potential as a form of resistance. Years after Benjamin, the Situationist International declared: “Boredom is always counterrevolutionary.”

Lorna Brown’s sustained inquiry into the subject of boredom is manifest in Threshold (cont.), a video installation using quotations from a long list of literary, theoretical and sociological sources on boredom. In white serif text, single projected quotations slowly and steadily roll across the floor, briefly disappear into the crack between the floor and the wall, then become legible as they move up the surface of the wall. The text scrolls vertically upward in a similar movement to the credit roll in films or on television, but at a delay more akin to the motion of an escalator or a slow moving, standing wave. Likewise, the space between each quote is long, almost painful, and slows down viewership of the work to a pace that appears to enact a performance of boredom—a seeming lack of interest, a fixed and stationary position, a weariness.

Situated in a university library, and next to an elevator, the work takes on the characteristics of the surrounding spaces—waiting, reading, researching, learning—and continues in an infinite loop. Similar in form to Benjamin’s “convolutes,” Brown’s compilation of short texts presents an endless, unfinished and indeterminate definition of boredom, the enormity of which is one of its many contradictions. “The bibliography of boredom is immense,” reads one of the scrolling quotes.

Viewed with a mixture of anticipation and impatience, the desire for definitive meaning is frustrated at the appearance of each new text. Threshold (cont.) works decidedly against our expectation for coherence and resolution, presenting boredom in all of its banality, potential and magnitude, the overwhelming nature of which could very well lead to boredom itself.

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