DULL is not boring

Just over year ago, artist/writer Pete Hunter (the Southampton one, not the Kirkcaldy one) asked me if I’d video myself reading a short poem and send the result to him. The instructions were for it to be ‘dull’ i.e plain background, deadpan delivery, just a head-and-shoulders shot in landscape format. I said yes, and so did many others – same instructions, different poems. I waited to see what DULL would turn out to be, forgot about it, occasionally wondered briefly if it was happening. Then a few weeks ago, I got invited to the launch of DULL.

The location was spot on – upstairs in a disused shop which had recently been a pop-up art-and-craft emporium. The hand-drawn sign on the door, the empty ground floor with broken walls and ghosts of fittings and single pink sofa among the grey, the dingy staircase leading up to the cold and echoey venue for the event. It all matched the sparseness of the requested vocal style. It was a public event but invites had mainly gone to those who’d taken part. Public, but… only sort of. Some of us wandered the building for some ad hoc urbex. We chatted. There was wine. We noticed the piles of boxes. DULL began.

Now, I’m not going to explain the content other than to say it’s highly personal to Pete; not because it’s a secret, but because it will at some point be put online and I want to avoid spoilers. However, I can say the structure’s fairly straightforward – all the contributors’ videos in sequence, though not necessarily generating a linear narrative. There are some other sounds. The ending feels satisfactory, but may not be a true end-point. The sequence of poems may differ from the real-life events that inspired them. Your heart may ache. You may wonder why it is called ‘DULL’.

Afterwards, Pete read a horoscope he’d carried in his wallet for something like twenty years. With him, he also had a letter he’d received after contacting One Million Lovely Letters during a difficult time in his life. He’d received it in 2013 and never opened it. He opened it in front of us and read it aloud. It was beautiful and one of the most honest pieces of art I have witnessed – no pretence, simply a man publicly reading something intensely personal. I have no idea if I can be that honest in my art, but I hope so. Certainly it chimed with me – the fear of judgement if I perform the confessionals I sometimes write – and it has inspired me to confront this. Pete has already done so.

So, what next for DULL? As far as I’m aware, this isn’t decided yet, but there may be further showings-with-Q&A or other events, and when the time is right, the video will go online. There is a DULL book. It comes with coloured pencils. I haven’t used them yet. I can safely say I feel honoured to be part of it, and to have been invited into Pete’s mind-by-proxy. I hope this gallery of images gives you a feel for what was a great piece of art in the perfect space. I hope you get to see it too.

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