“Profound boredom, drifting here and there in the abysses of our existence like a muffling fog, removes all things and men and oneself along with it into a remarkable indifference. This boredom reveals being as a whole.” Martin Heidegger, What is Metaphysics? (1929)
Boredom can be perceived as both stifling and liberating: as an emptiness to be avoided or else as a overflowing of time and space. In this view boredom is monotonous, repetitive, and dull, but it is also a potential source of insight and creativity – a pause that gives perspective or an empty space to be filled.
This conference seeks to engage boredom and to explore the dangers and potentials it represents in a way that moves beyond the confines of traditional academic conferences. We welcome proposals for participation of the following types:
Please send proposals to email@example.com and include the name(s) and university affiliation(s) and/or other relevant affiliation(s) of the presenters. Please specify the amount of time required as well as audio, visual, and space requirements.
DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS: APRIL 1, 2015
For academic presentations, please send a publication-ready titled abstract of 200-300 words. For presentations, workshops, and performances, please send an outline (~1 page) of the proposed presentation, workshop, or performance, including a description of the organization(s) involved (if applicable) and a brief explanation of the ways the proposed presentation, workshop, or performance engages boredom or related themes. Possible themes to explore include:
Apathy – e.g. activist interventions into political apathy
Art – e.g. artworks or studies of art history and visual culture that thematize boredom (eg. John Baldessari’s “I will not make any more boring art”) employ repetitive mark-making (eg. pointilism), rely on algorithms (eg. Jorinde Voigt’s schematic line drawings), or explore extreme formal reduction (eg. minimalism).
Attention – e.g. boredom as unfocused attention; neuroscientific studies on the perceptual effects of attention and focus, for example, the role of attention in the “binding problem.”
Boredom and Modernity – e.g. boredom as social alienation; historical studies on the affective consequences of the shift from rural to urban life in the industrializing West; phenomenology of factory line labour
Choice – e.g. choice overload in our options as consumers; debates around the secularizing or disenchanting effects of ideological and religious pluralism
Creativity – e.g. artist talks or practitioner anecdotes on boredom as either a stifle or a boon to creativity; philosophical, psychological, or sociocultural studies on the relationship between boredom and creativity; writer’s block or creative block vs. flow (re: Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s theory of “flow”)
Depression – e.g. psychological studies of how lack of interest, flat affect, and psychomotor retardation figure in diagnosis and treatment of depression
Emptiness – e.g. from existential emptiness in movements and ideologies like nihilism or Dada, to spatial emptiness in theories of the sublime
Leisure/Play – e.g. the loss of distinction between leisure and labour activities as the same information communication technologies are used in both work and play; the changing forms of children’s play and imagination in the context of digital overstimulation or “information overload”
Literature – e.g. literary works or studies that have thematized or reproduced boredom (mid-century conceptualists’ “uncreative writing,” Kenneth Goldsmith’s concept of the “unboring boring,” the Russian genre of “boredom novels” (lishni chelovek), David Foster Wallace’s novel The Pale King)
Meaning – e.g. boredom as a spiritual or philosophical affliction, from acedia in The Desert Fathers to ennui as a bourgeois distinction
Meditation/Contemplation – e.g. the differences between “superficial” and “profound” boredom; boredom as a meditative state; workshops on enduring or embracing boredom in meditative practices
Morality – e.g. boredom as the root of evil – the connection between boredom and anxiety, boredom and cruelty, boredom and antisocial tendencies – in philosophical and theological thought (Baudelaire, Kierkegaard, etc.); contemporary depictions of boredom as a moral failing in an overdeveloped world
Procrastination – e.g. boredom from an educational or managerial perspective – strategies on how to find interest in rote tasks
Repetition – e.g. boredom as predictability, or repetitiveness (Benjamin on boredom and the cycles of fashion in The Arcades Project; Nietzsche’s concept of the eternal return; Deleuze’s concept of difference and repetition)
Time – e.g. boredom characterized as an experience of time slowed, stilled, or warped in theories of time consciousness (Heidegger, Husserl, Bergson)