On Space

Boredom, Architecture and Modernity

Category: Space

Early Occupancy: The Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Hong Kong

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The Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong. Zaha Hadid Architects. 28 November 2016. Photographs by Christian Parreno

Structures of Resting and Waiting: Porters in Nineteenth-Century London

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Piccadilly, London. 3 August 2016. Photograph by Christian Parreno

‘At the suggestion of RA Slaney Esq who for 20 years represented Shrewsbury in Parliament, this porters rest was erected in 1861 by the vestry of St George Hanover Square for the benefit of porters and others carrying burden as a relic of a past period in London’s history. It is hoped that the the people will aid its preservation’.

Calvino: The Boredom of the American Inferno

Fortunately America is not all an artificial-natural paradise like California here. A quarter of America is a dramatic, tense, violent country, exploding with contradictions, full of brutal, physiological vitality, and that is the America that I have really loved and love. But a good half of it is a country of boredom, emptiness, monotony, brainless production, and brainless consumption, and this is the American inferno.

Los Angeles, 15 February 1960

Calvino, Italo. ‘Letter to Lanfranco Caretti-Pavia’, in Letters, 1941-1985. Translated by Martin McLaughlin. edited by Michael Wood. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013, 197.

 

Max Beckmann: Boredom, Space and Painting

Love in an animal sense is an illness, but a necessity which one has to overcome. Politics is an odd game, not without danger I have been told, but certainly sometimes amusing. To eat and to drink are habits not to be despised but often connected with unfortunate consequences.To sail around the earth in ninety-one hours must be very strenuous, like racing in cars or splitting the atoms. But the most exhausting thing of all – is boredom.

So let me take part in your boredom and your dreams while you take part in mine which may be yours as well.

To begin with, there has been enough talk about art. After all, it must always be unsatisfactory to try to express one’s deeds in words. Still we shall go on and on, talking and painting and making music, boring ourselves, exciting ourselves, making war and peace as long as our strength of imagination lasts. Imagination is perhaps the most decisive characteristic of mankind. My dream is the imagination of space – to change the optical impression of the world of objects by a transcendental arithmetic progression of the inner being. That is the precept. In principal any alteration of the object is allowed which has a sufficiently strong creative power behind it.

[…]

If the canvas is only filled with two-dimensional conception of space, we shall have applied art, or ornament. Certainly this may give us pleasure, though I myself find it boring as it does not give me enough visual sensation. To transform three into two dimensions is for me an experience full of magic in which I glimpse for a moment that fourth dimension which my whole being is seeking.

[…]

Stars are our eyes and nebulae our beards… we have people’s souls for our hearts. We hide ourselves and you cannot see us, which is just what we want when the skies are red at midday, red in the blackest night. Our torches stretch away without end… silver, glowing red, purple, violet, green-blue and black. We bear them in our dance over the seas and mountains, across the boredom of life.

We sleep and our brains circle in dull dreams.

Full text

Max Beckmann, ‘My Theory of Painting’ in Max Beckmann. Paintings, Paperworks, Graphics. Galerie Thomas, 1938

John Berryman’s Boredom, or the Lack of Inner Resources

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no

Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.

John Berryman, ‘Dream Song 14’ in The Dream Songs. FSG: 1969