Why Artist Jess Rotter Says You Should Take Time to Be Bored

From Jess Rotter's "I'm Bored." 

From Jess Rotter's "I'm Bored." 

Boredom is a thing of the past. With smartphones and streaming video, the world at our fingertips (!!!), how could it not be? Isn’t that what we wanted? Wasn’t it our mothers who told us, “only boring people are bored.”

But artist Jess Rotter is bored. And the LA-based creative responsible for those rad Lenny Letter illustrations and official merch for musicians like The Grateful Dead and Cat Stevens, is proud of it, proposing a new way to think about boredom.

It’s what her new book of illustrations, “I’m Bored,” is all about.

Raised in NY and deeply influenced by her dad's vinyl covers and the world of 1970s rock-n-roll, Rotter says she moved to LA when the rat race of the city wasn’t working for her anymore. “There were a lot of ups and downs,” she says of the city that raised her. “I came out here [to LA] and sorted it out, but then I thought, ‘I’m bored.’” She turned that feeling into art. 

“The book,” she notes, “as cute and funny as it can be, can be super heavy. The characters are alter egos. The dog is all about a desire to feel cool and relevant. The ostrich is broken-hearted and depressed.” A wizard on an old-school telephone asks, "Mom, am I relevant?" to the voice on the other end. They wonder, "Now what?" They tell us, "I'm trying." 

Image: Jess Rotter 

Image: Jess Rotter 

The sentiments shared by the characters typify a kind of life fatigue we all feel at points-- the exact kind of fatigue we try to escape by keeping up with the cult of busy. If we're bored, then what we're left with are our thoughts. *Shudders*

They each also represent a desire from Rotter for people to get back to the “story” of moments. She believes that when things are over-documented stories lose part of their luster. She shares a tale from a friend who told her about being a small child trying on his grandfather's lederhosen. "It was this insane memory," she says of his retelling, "and has always stayed a fond memory because he never had an actual photo of the event." 

In that undocumented moment, “the story becomes more exciting. That’s the soul, that’s the beauty," she says. "But now we’re afraid to forget or we’re afraid to deal with the moment.” 

"We're afraid to forget or we're afraid to deal with the moment." 

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“Maybe we don’t need to go back and look at everything. Maybe let’s try being in the moment because we’re documenting every day of our lives.” 

For Rotter, dealing with and being in the moment means dealing with the subsequent boredom. A feeling that no longer makes us comfortable, but does make room for creativity, rare moments we wouldn't otherwise notice, and for us to hit the space key in our brain.

In this day and age it’s a sacred sentiment, where everyone, including Rotter, hops on their cell phone in the grocery store line or the elevator ride. “You’re giving your brain a little thumb-suck,” she says of the social media stream. The constant coverage is driving the bus. The Tweeting, the hashtagging, the stories layered on top of each other. There are not moments of boredom because we don't allow them.  

To get into the bored zone, Rotter says we, “have to train ourselves to go backwards."

Image: Jess Rotter 

Image: Jess Rotter 

The election comes up. How could it not? During the 2016 Presidential race the media never allowed for information to sit. There was always a story, never a dull moment, and we were all active participants.

"Life bounces between good and evil constantly," she shares. "Now the ball has been thrown in a different direction. The world is about the change in a major way. This electron was such a swamp, he [Trump] brings it out of people. He knows what buttons to push. It’s like the purple slime from Ghostbusters.” She sees some positive, hoping that now, more than ever, “that this wakes people up to express themselves.” That communities “open up and make art."

"So many people are at their lowest levels," she says. "This is their anti-establishment takeover. And art is one of the things that is going to get us through this shit.”

"There are not moments of boredom because we don't allow them."

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“Everybody’s eyes are opened," she explains. "People are awakened in a weird way. They’re depressed and awake. They’re feeling things and maybe people will turn off the phones.”

Maybe they'll bored. Maybe we'll relearn how to sit with our thoughts. Maybe boredom will change the world. Jess Rotter, for one, wouldn't mind. 

In the meantime, pre-order "I'm Bored," now.