Recounting time spent in his first studio, after graduating from art school in 1966, Bruce Nauman said:
"If you see yourself as an artist and you function in a studio and you're not a painter ... you do all kinds of things - you sit in a chair or pace around. And the question goes back to what is art? And art is what an artist does, just sitting around the studio."
Some forty years earlier, Siegfried Kracauer had published a short essay on the subject of boredom. Instead of examining, as one might expect, the tedium of modern industrial labor and the repetitive, oversimplified tasks that constitute unskilled work, his topic was modern leisure. Kracauer considered its diversions, however spectacular, just as dull. Moreover, he concluded, contemporary popular culture - designed as escape from the drudgery of work - distracted from life. The critic doesn't complain that the modern subject is bored; rather, that no one is bored enough. He advocates a kind of 'extraordinary, radical boredom.' Neither concerted productivity nor focused play, it entails the fruitlessness of just sitting around, making or doing apparently nothing:
" but what if one refuses to allow oneself to be chased away? Then boredom becomes the only proper occupation, since it provides a kind of guarantee that one is, so to speak, still in control of one's own existence. If one were never bored, one would presumably not really be present at all and would thus be merely one more object of boredom. One would light up the rooftops [like a neon sign] or spool by as a filmstrip."
The remedy? Stay home, Kracauer instructed, draw the curtains and recline on the couch so that
"one flirts with ideas that even become quite respectable in the process, and one considers various projects that, for no reason, pretend to be serious. Eventually one becomes content to do nothing more than be with oneself, without knowing whoat one actually should be doing... Frivolous, one harbors only an inner restlessness without a goal... If, however, one has the patience, the sort specific to legitimate boredom, then one experiences a kind of bliss.