Curated by Gareth Bell-Jones and Gemma Lloyd

John Baldessari
Phil Coy
Lucy Clout
Emma Hart
William Hunt
Sam Porritt
Peter Wächtler

Being Boring is an exhibition about boredom; an emotional state that is so familiar and so seemingly without value, that we tend to be dismissive of it without further consideration. The title for this project comes from a 1990 song by the Pet Shop Boys, which was in turn inspired by a quote from Zelda Fitzgerald’s 1922 essay Eulogy on the Flapper: “She refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring”. In this exhibition we diverge from Fitzgerald’s off-hand take and suggest boredom, or a response to boredom, is central in the creative act and impulse to create. Due to advances in digital technology, many of us belong to a society in a constant state of distraction; a culture where the state of existential boredom has been accelerated without us necessarily feeling bored.

With the participation of students of the Icelandic Academy of the Arts, Being Boring presents a recreation of John Baldessari’s seminal 1971 ‘punishment piece’ I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art. Originally commissioned by the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in Halifax, Canada, Baldessari asked student volunteers to write the phrase—drawn from the margins of his personal notebooks—on the walls of the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. While the repetitive, mundane exercise of re-writing a phrase served as a means to instil an important value in the students, it also conflicted with the instruction itself—to not make boring art. This recreation remains faithful to the artist’s same instructions some 45 years ago and will continue to be added to over the course of the show.

Alongside Baldessari’s work are a selection of works which explore different approaches and responses to boredom and collectively present an examination of this deceptively complex emotional state. In Phil Coy’s as far as i know the artist has orchestrated a series of encounters between commuters and their mobile devices compiled entirely from Gif’s, Vine, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram (#afaik). This contemporary reimagining of the monorail scene in Fahrenheit 451 (1966) focuses on these intimate gestures and mimics the distraction and malaise of the commuter. Marx argues in his theory of alienation that in lacking any control of their labour, workers inevitably lose control of their lives and selves. Work comes to be a meaningless activity, offering little or no intrinsic satisfaction.

Emma Hart’s group of ceramic sculptures, Shit Sandwich, reflects on her experience of menial jobs and the ongoing low level anxiety caused by the mindless completion of checklists and surveys. In From Our Own Correspondent, Lucy Clout considers the rolling deadlines and insistent demands of round-the-clock news reporting. Filmed in a series of anonymous hotel rooms that present a blurring of home and work life, Clout focuses on the long uneventful and lonely hours between reports.

With the emergence of regulated working hours came the emergence of leisure time. In a new film William Hunt examines the pastimes used to fill this time. Taking Camus’ ‘act of eluding’, as a starting point, Hunt questions the manifestation of thwarted or unrealisable desires via a study of model boat racing enthusiasts.

Peter Wächtler’s, animation stars a bachelor rat endlessly repeating a short sequence within typical cartoon vocabulary. The accompanying voiceover is a fragmented narrative of statements and episodes, never arriving at a complete story. The repetition of modular elements has always been central to the economy of animation, a labour reducing device usually concealed in order not to interfere with the illusion of linear narrative progression. Wächtler’s rat loops ostentatiously. Mechanically repeating ad nauseam, fate turns into slapstick and only therein conveys the horror of an administered world.

The monotony of repetition likewise features in an ongoing pursuit of Sam Porritt who, over the last few years, has been engaged in making a series of individually titled drawings that use the looping line as a form of protagonist. Currently totaling some 150 drawings, a small selection are shown at Nýló where the line in each could be seen to personify an individual, society, or even the whole of mankind making their way through time and space.

This is the first iteration of an expansive and cumulative series of exhibitions, events, texts and thinking by independent curators Gareth Bell-Jones and Gemma Lloyd in which to explore the seemingly mundane yet wholly universal theme of boredom. In June 2016, the curators will be in residence at Rupert, Vilnius, where they will be exploring these ideas in further depth.

Gareth Bell-Jones (b. 1982, Durham, UK) is a London based independent curator and writer, currently curator/director of Flat Time House, a gallery and archive in the former home of post-war conceptual artist John Latham. From 2010 to 2014 he worked as a programme curator for Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge, where he curated residencies, exhibitions, retreats, events, publications and an annual music festival.

Gemma Lloyd (b.1981, Ipswich, UK) is a London based curator with over a decade of experience in exhibition-making, publications and catalogues, artist residencies and public events. Previously deputy director of PEER, London her current projects include a series of public art commissions for the Thames Tideway Tunnel; an exhibition titled The Sea at the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull in 2017; archival work for the British artists Alison Wilding and Tess Jaray; and English language editing for the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius.

John Baldessari (b. 1931, National City, California) lives and works in Santa Monica, California. Baldessari’s work has been featured in more than 200 solo exhibitions and in over 1,000 group exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe. His projects include artist books, videos, films, billboards and public works. He is attributed as being one of the founders and innovators of conceptual art and is recognised for his profound impact on younger artists through his teaching at the California Institute of the Arts and UCLA.

Lucy Clout (b. 1980, Leeds, UK) lives and works in London. Recent exhibitions include Warm Bath, Limoncello, London; Galleri Box, Gothenburg, SE; and Jerwood Space, London/CCA, Glasgow, UK (both 2015). Her previous work has investigated the experience of viewing performance, interrogating the communicative aspects of the physical and social relationships between the audience and the art-object/performer.

Phil Coy (b. 1971, Gloucester, UK) lives and works in London. Current exhibitions include The Green Ray, Wilkinson Gallery, London (2016) and a new permanent public commission for Caledonian Road Cally Colour Chart (2016). His work incorporates a wide range of media to collage concepts rooted in the radical art and literature of the 1950s and 60s with the language, architecture and systems of today’s culture of global commerce.

Emma Hart (b. 1974, London) lives and works in London. She is the latest recipient of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery and will have a solo exhibition there and at the Collezione Maramotti in 2017. In 2015 she was awarded a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award for Visual Art. For Hart ‘sculpture, most recently ceramics, provides a way to physically corrupt and ‘dirty’ images and forcefully squeeze more life out of them’.

William Hunt (b.1977, London) lives and works in Düsseldorf. Presenting himself as both heroic protagonist and foolish prankster his performances, films and photographs pull us into intense constructions which balance physical tension and mechanical precision to elicit wildly differing emotions – from morbid thrill and painful humour to melancholy and balletic poetry. His most recent solo exhibitions and performances have taken place at Gallery Lejeune, London, (2016); Crawford Art Gallery, Cork; Kunstmuseum Stuttgart; Ibid Projects, Los Angeles and Rotwand, Zurich (all 2015).

Sam Porritt (b. 1979, London). Lives and works in Zurich. Mining the english language for multiple readings and concocting complex word associations, Porritt’s titles playfully activate and upend the drawings and sculptures with which they correspond. Recent solo exhibitions include Falling Gets Me Down at Naming Rights, London (2015) and The More You Look, The More You Look, 100 Plus, Zürich and the group exhibition L’Hospice des Mille-Cuisses at Centre d’ Art Neuchatel, Switzerland.

Peter Wächtler (1979, Hanover, Germany) lives and works in Brussels. His first solo exhibition in the United States – Secrets of a Trumpet – was held at the Renaissance Society, Chicago earlier this year and forthcoming solo exhibitions include Chisenhale Gallery, London and Kiosk, Ghent (both 2016). Wächtler’s films, texts, drawings and sculptures consistently offer elaborate constructions that pay close attention to the frailty of everyday existence with melancholic and heartfelt undertones that reference the filmic and literary genres of thrillers, B-movie horror, tragicomedy and dark romantic drama.