The Idle Institute
The Itches: A Gym for Public Embarrassments

Exhibition open:

23.2.19 – 17.03.19
Sat. – Sun. 12:00 – 18:00

Private view:

Thursday February 21st, 18:00 – 20:00


The Idle Institute presents The Itches: A Gym for Public Embarrassments [2018]. The work manoeuvres around five bespoke exercise machines, designed to perfect instances of minor public humiliation. The apparatus sits inside a grey institutional display, layering atmospheres of contemporary bureaus, design fairs, medical waiting rooms and gym spaces. Each has a set of instructions in the form of narrative manual—embedded in an online interface (http://show.idle.institute). Through analysing the language and voices of customer service labyrinths, motivational talks, helplines and public transport alerts, the Idle Institute attempt to engage the seductive and dystopian narratives of self-optimisation and self-protection. Prior to the show, the machines were photographed in a manner mimicking hypersexualised gym advertisements. They were uploaded with hashtags such as #sisyphuswasjustworkingout and #adamconnect alongside standard fitness tags #gym #workout #push, attracting a following of gym goers and gurus worldwide.

The Idle Institute (est. 2017) is a storytelling lab: a collective of writers, filmmakers, sound-artists and engineers founded by Eliot Allison and Sonia Bernac. Their collaborative practice began from a mutual investigation into technologies of storytelling and the political potentialities of a narrative. Each project builds from narrative experiments: poetic traps in urban space, phone pranks, impersonation games and sci-fi installations, with the core of their research concerning narrative entanglement, machine(s) of writing and storytelling as labour. The Idle Institute’s work is visible at http://idle.institute. They have exhibited in the UK, Eastern Europe and China.