“Dawn Parsonage’s “Boring Exhibition” brilliantly highlights the private struggles we all face when bored - the struggle to find meaning, to find ways to occupy our restless minds - and shares these intimate and often funny moments with the rest of us. The result is charming, deeply human - and definitely not boring.”
Dr Erin C Westgate, Social Psychologist, Ohio State University.
Dawn Parsonage’s debut exhibition - The Boring Exhibition, was first shown at the Bermondsey Project Space, London, UK in June 2019. Humorous, beautiful and utterly boring, the Boring Exhibition playfully explores boredom through photography, film and interaction.
The central element of the project is series of boring portraits, presenting a distillation of boredom, seeking to capture emotion in its purest form without distraction.
The portraits were taken during a series of experiments, each designed to lure the subject into boredom in a different way:
1. An endless loop. The sitter is made to listen to a boring speech on a short loop which sounds like it should make sense but never does.
2. Time perception. The subject sits with a loudly ticking clock. It only has an hour hand and is in fact running at half speed. Time appears to be going slower than normal.
3. Pain vs boredom. A recreation of Dr Erin C Westgate and Dr Timothy D Wilson’s electrification experiment where subjects have the choice to shock themselves to relieve their boredom.
The experiments were devised with the help of psychologists. Each subject sat for up to an hour while a photograph was taken silently every 10 seconds.
The three experiments, are presented in the triptych ‘Boring Experiments’ and all the portraits are seen in the main piece - ‘Boring People’ a 7.6m panorama consisting of 22 portraits mounted on aluminium and displayed on it’s own bespoke plywood shelf.
The full Boring Exhibition was originally spread over 3 floors and comprised of the contemporary portraits, full films of the sitters becoming bored and the found photographs from artists collection which inspired the project.
The exhibition poses the question, what does boredom mean in our modern lives? When was the last time you were bored? Why are playful photographs of boredom so funny?
What is my expression right now as I'm reading this?
Catalogue available. Please feel free to contact Dawn directly for details.
"I've collected anonymous photography for over 20 years and have amassed a collection of over 10,000 images. My found photography collection led to the contemporary bored portraits. My aim was to capture a distillation of boredom without distractions, presenting it in its purest form.
I wanted to remove the subjects' usual barriers, to capture their default bored state. But there's a vulnerability to becoming bored. Could I take a portrait with the subject fully aware their photograph was being taken?
I constructed a clean controlled environment in a studio. The images exploit the stark contrast between the blank background and the honesty of sitters expressions.
In the year leading up to the exhibition, I worked with psychologists to devise experiments based on audio, pain and time perception, in order to create boring conditions. The element of distraction broke the relationship between subject and camera, lulling them into a bored state."
"During the sessions I watched as 22 of my subjects defied, resisted, and ultimately resigned to inevitable boredom. I was glued to every movement and every expression. Each person's journey into boredom was unique, and over the 15 hours I watched them, every micro expression became tantalising. I felt voyeuristic, as though I was trespassing on a personal moment which you would not usually have the licence to watch in such detail.
The resulting images are humorous and intimate and reflect the many phases of boredom."
BORING ANNA | 30 MIN FILM | 2019
"Found photography has fascinated me since I was 14 - these tiny fractions of seconds trapped on a piece of paper. But when these photographs are lost that moment is lost forever, along with all the things it could tell us. I'm less interested in the big historical events, but more the personal moments that were so important to someone that the picture was taken and treasured. These images are often overlooked and discarded, seen as having no value now the names of the people staring out at us are long forgotten. But there are treasures to be found if we just stop
I first became interested in boredom while collecting found photography. The major theme of my collection is instances of real emotions - people laughing, crying, being in love, doing all of the things that make us
To me these moments feel so delicate and ephemeral that they usually disappear as soon as we go to
When we see a camera, we check ourselves and suddenly become aware of what we are doing and how we are feeling. Genuine emotions caught on film are rare, yet images of people taken while bored feel like the ultimate kind of unadulterated intimacy.
The found photographs are playful and humorous, yet quietly beautiful."