Intentional Boredom at the University of North Florida

EVENT: Series of Boring Events
WHERE: University of North Florida (1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224)
WHEN: March 1-3, March 15, April 3-7, April 20

Clark Lunberry is the first to admit that his latest art venture, Watching Paint Dry, began as a joke. When he first expressed his interest in hosting a Series of Boring Events to University of North Florida Gallery of Art Coordinator Jim Draper, Draper replied, “You should just have students come into the gallery and watch paint dry.”

Lunberry told Draper, “That’s a great idea.” The UNF Professor of English hosted the performance event as part of the Series of Boring Events in conjunction with his Spring literature course “Being Bored: The Art of Ennui.”

Watching Paint Dry consisted of a seemingly blank canvas perched upon two sawhorses and a drop cloth. The exhibit produced a shift in expectation from gallery wall to tabletop, a concept that was Draper’s idea. Deliberately, Lunberry and Draper set up the canvas to give the gallery the look of a sacred space, and for the canvas “to have a reverential aura about it with a light on the pure surface,” says Lunberry.

Upon a closer look, many viewers took note of the shadows created by the texture of the canvas’ wet paint. Ambient drone-based music fell into the exhibit’s backdrop, but maintained viewers’ focus on the drying paint. The music also highlighted the element of time in the paint’s performance. Lunberry described the drying paint as a “durational piece,” which is “often a component of boredom, but not always.”

Mostly, though, Watching Paint Dry manifested a cliché about boredom. The performance event “takes the cliché seriously,” says Lunberry. “Thus, it ceases to be a cliché.”

Madison Herrin is a student in Professor Lunberry’s course on boredom. In the class, the students read works by Gustave Flaubert, Charles Baudelaire, and others, in order to discuss “how boredom affects the characters’ motivations.” When describing the class discussions, Herrin recalls such questions as, “Where does boredom stem from?” and, “What are the conditions under which you can be bored?”

Herrin notes that the exhibit is representative of Professor Lunberry’s style. She regards his teaching methods as “interesting… and provocative, maybe.” In addition to teaching literature courses at the university, Lunberry is internationally known for his art installation and visual poetry work. Over the summer, he showed part of his Writing on Water series during the “Emily Dickinson International Society Triennial Conference” at the Cité International Universitaire de Paris in Paris, France, and has presented parts of the series on the UNF campus as well.

During Watching Paint Dry, Lunberry included copies of a 1924 Siegfried Kracauer essay titled “Boredom,” which he supplied in order to ground the performance in a perspective carrying some political emphasis. Overall, though, he had “very few intentions” with the exhibit. Lunberry’s desire with many of his installations is to let the work speak for itself, often making the audience part of the performance.

The first of five in Lunberry’s hosted Series of Boring Events at UNF, Watching Paint Dry kicked off a campus-wide conversation among students who feel compelled by the performance event. Among the upcoming Series of Boring Events, Lunberry will host a performance art installation, Checks and Balances, from regional artist Mark Creegan (March 1-3). During the performance, Creegan will set up an office space just outside of Founder’s Hall, a building central to the UNF campus that cannot be missed by students. During his “office hours” of sorts, Creegan will complete a series of his signature, informal checkmark and hook motif drawings.

To round out the series, Lunberry will oversee a 20-hour-long piano performance of Erik Satie’s Vexations (March 15, UNF Thomas G. Carpenter library atrium), a Tim Albro sound installation titled Boring and Boring Again (April 3-7, UNF Gallery of Art), and a special showing of Andy Warhol’s Sleep and Empire under the stars (April 20, UNF Green).

“It’s ironic, I guess, that a class about boredom can have interesting boring events,” says Lunberry of the series.

The Series of Boring Events occurs around the UNF Campus (1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224) throughout the months of March and April. Entrance to events is free, but guests must pay for parking permits.

About Hurley Winkler

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