Over the last few months, boredom has become a part of a lot of our lives. I’m an artist and I’ve been fascinated with boredom for a while. For the last two years, I’ve been working on my project ‘Boring People’.
The project was inspired by my collection of found photographs of emotions (I have around 10,000). I began collecting more and more images of bored people, and wondered how you could take a photograph of an emotion that is so fragile?
I wanted to know if it was possible for me to take a portrait of boredom. And what it boredom anyway? Is it a good or a bad thing? Why are we so afraid of it? Why is it SO funny?
To capture it, I took a series of photographs of boredom and filmed everyone’s slow descent into the emotion. I worked with psychologists and created three experiments to make people bored, like, REALLY bored in the studio.. and on the whole, they worked.
Dylan takes part in the experiment ‘The Endless Loop,’ designed to lure him into boredom. 40-minute sitting.
Stanley, 7, takes part in an experiment ‘The Endless Loop,’ designed to lure him into boredom. 15-minute sitting.
Jo takes part in an experiment ‘Pain vs. Boredom,’ designed to test her tolerance of boredom. 50-minute sitting.
Ella 7, takes part in an experiment ‘Time Perception,’ designed to lure her into boredom. 15-minute sitting.
Jonathan takes part in an experiment ‘Time Perception,’ designed to lure him into boredom. 30-minute sitting.
Maddy takes part in an experiment ‘Time Perception,’ designed to lure her into boredom. 15-minute sitting.
Anna takes part in an experiment ‘The Endless Loop,’ designed to lure her into boredom. 40-minute sitting.
After a year of research, I managed to find 21 participants to experiment on
1. [Box] Pain vs. Boredom. If the boredom becomes too much they can cause themselves pain via an electric shock. A recreation of an experiment by Dr. Timothy Wilson and Dr. Erin Westgate.
2. [Clock] Time Perception. The person is sat in the studio with a clock and is told they will be sat there for a set amount of time. They notice the clock does not have a minute hand and think this is the experiment, but the truth is the clock is running at half speed. They feel the time is going slowly so they must be bored and thus become bored.
3. [Sound Cone] The endless loop. We created the most boring speech possible and played it on a 5 min loop over up to an hour. The speech is read slowly and in a monotone voice. It is inescapable, the person feels trapped. It sounds like it should make sense but it never does. This was the most effective experiment.
As I took the pictures I hid behind a black cloth, while watching the boredom on a monitor. I took continuous silent digital photographs, filmed the experiments, interviewed the people, and most importantly took a series of large-format photographs, which you see here.
Large format film means that I had one chance to take the photograph, I also had to set the focus and exposure at the start of the sitting, but it was a risk worth taking. These analog photographs have more soul then digital images, and as I’m capturing emotions that were important.
I sat there secretly watching, waiting for the moment when I thought they were at peak boredom. I then developed the negatives in my bathroom. These were the trickiest to take with so many variables, you can see the best ones here, but the project is broader.
You can see the piece as a whole on my website. ‘Boring People’ was shown in London at the Boring Exhibition in 2019. The book ‘Boring People’ is available on my website.
Watch the experiments in full here
Image credits: www.youtube.com
I filmed each person in full as they took part in the boring experiment. You can watch the full films on YouTube.