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 ( 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 They have exhibited in the UK, Eastern Europe and China.