A shattered screen with multi-coloured shapes and patterns covering the shards

The Idle Index

Online now
The Idle Index is an exhibition and online project featuring screensavers created by artists based in, or with links to, Leicester.

The Idle Index is an exhibition and online project featuring screensavers created by artists based in, or with links to, Leicester.

Screensavers have persisted as a common feature of digital devices long after their original purpose – to protect screens from burn-in – has become obsolete.

While some systems still utilise them for practical purposes such as security, they serve for most as a reminder of our own inactivity – acting as prompts to continue working, browsing, watching or shopping.

The Idle Index repurposes the screensaver to explore ideas of work, boredom, leisure and usefulness

Artists Gino AttwoodDan CowlamAnoushka GoodwinKhush KaliAshok MistryJas SinghAntonio Roberts and Kühle Wampe have been commissioned to make new screensavers for the 2020 edition of The Idle Index.

The screensavers work through our free browser extension. This is compatible with Chrome, and available through the Chrome Web Store.

Download The Idle Index Browser Extension

We’ve recorded a short installation guide here.

The extension allows users to select screensavers to activate during moments of online idleness, and also includes pieces from the 2019 and 2018 editions of this project.

A gallery exhibition of The Idle Index will be launched when Phoenix is able to reopen to the public.

You can preview the screensavers and find out more about each piece below. Audio-described versions of each work are also linked.

We have released the code behind the browser extension as an open source template on Github. Releasing this template allows anyone to create and publish their own online screensaver-based projects.

The Idle Index was part of Leicester Art Week 2020 a festival of online events and exhibitions taking place across the city from 20 Nov to 29 Nov.

On 14/1/21 we hosted an Artists’ Talk and Q&A with some of the participating artists. A recording of this talk can be viewed below.

Artists participating in the talk include: Dan Cowlam, Khush KaliAshok Mistry, Antonio RobertsJas Singh and Kühle Wampe

Gino Attwood – Dampness

Dampness (2020) is a digitally hand-drawn animation exploring themes of stagnation, personal growth, labour economies and the fetishisation of sad aesthetics. The video draws on lo-fi digital animation techniques used by Youtube content creators to produce ambient motion which create a thin illusion of time and space with the least effort possible to accompany online music playlists.

An audio-described version of the work can be accessed here.

Daniel Cowlam – Tunnel

In Tunnel, we have an animation that is all background and no character. Through the animation process, made with hand-drawn stills, the illusion of movement is achieved through layering, positioning and scaling of the stills on the screen rather than redrawing them in different positions for each frame in the way that we might usually imagine animation. The image is just an endless tunnel and the repetitive flashes of light reflecting on a windscreen. The type of backdrop journey you might expect to link two screen moments or to find during a cinematic info dump. But here it just loops without conclusion, linking two moments of computer screen use. Either hopefully or with some ceaseless unease.

An audio-described version of the work can be accessed here.

*This video contains flashing images

Anoushka Goodwin – do nothing

In do nothing, a campfire is haphazardly constructed through appropriated images, some of them animated. A cabin hearth glows in the top left. A figure – an anime school girl – sits cuddled up by the campfire with the implication they are consuming steamy hot chocolate. Kittens, the epitome of calming, levitate above the campfire. A second figure, emoji woman, practices yoga in the bottom left. Candles have been lit to manifest the “me time” that has been etched into the wax. The implication is of spirituality in the post web 2.0 prosumer age. The composition is framed by the Safari loading icon, because we are waiting and doing nothing.

An audio-described version of the work can be accessed here.

Khush Kali – “the first job of an artist is to connect with their own experience”

Traditionally the screensaver would appear when the computer was idle – when the user had paused working and was most likely looking away from the screen. This immediately felt like an ideal performance space for me. My practice has begun shifting from visual art towards exploring performance but I find it pretty excruciating putting myself centre-stage in my work. In a space that appears precisely when no one is looking, I could execute my work without being seen.
The performance itself describes how the new normal has looked for a lot of people this year: our homes, our living rooms, becoming our workspaces and studios; endless scrolling; all those Zoom meetings; entertaining yourself and embracing your eccentricities while stuck at home during lockdown.

An audio-described version of the work can be accessed here.

Kühle Wampe – IDLEINDEX

((Ring ding ding daa baa Baa aramba baa bom baa barooumba A ram me ma bra ba bra bra rim bran Dran
drra ma mababa baabeeeaaaaaaa)) CONGRATULATIONS KW have successfully SAVED YOUR DOOMED SCREEN A (CURSED (IDLE) ENTITY FORM MANIFEST) from the unfortunate species-hereditary idleness of (human)KW members with the hex.obj file destroyed
BOUND now in the GARGOYLE COURT of the INTERZONE KW is now free to live a long, fruitful and productive life Unfortunately the screensaver is now the sole EXISTENZ-CAGE of the entity which will pass on to you upon viewing XO

An audio-described version of the work can be accessed here.

*This video contains flashing images

Ashok Mistry – An Unconventional Use of Time

The footage was taken in Taiwan, a country where freedom is prized and guarded. My intention is to view idleness or idling as a key part of freedom. We idle because we can as we can not idle in servitude. The LED sign in the video, flashing away in the darkness, weaves a silent disco of illuminated patterns along with all of the other lights in the depth of the night.

The sign is just as oblivious to passers-by as they are to it. People pass by on scooters whizzing idly through the freedom of the darkness. The idle sign creates a texture in the stillness of light that reminds any passer-by that they are alive and free.

An audio-described version of the work can be accessed here.

Antonio Roberts – windows.exe has stopped working

windows.exe has stopped working is about that moment of uncertainty when software begins exhibiting signs of an impending malfunction. The software stutters, glitches, begins acting erratically, sometimes altogether freezing with no indication of when normality will return.
When faced with this hopeless situation the illusion of flawless technology is shattered and we’re reminded that technology is imbued with the flaws and imperfections of its creators.

An audio-described version of the work can be accessed here.

Jas Singh – S A B O T A G E

Sabotage highlights mechanisms with which news channels have moved towards sensationalism, entertainment and opinion, and away from traditional values of verification, relevance, depth and quality of interpretation. These values replaced by Kovach and Rosenstiel’s “Journalism of assertion” which focuses how putting a claim into the arena of public discussion as quickly as possible undermines the accuracy of responding to the source of the report.

S A B O T A G E is based on the spectacle of a 24/7 news culture that reflects and amplifies the chaos of contemporary politics and events and calls upon “the medium is the message” as an experimental form of creating an artwork.

An audio-description of the work can be listened to here.

For previews of the screensavers from 2018 and 2019 visit our archive page.

Lead image credit: Antonio Roberts, windows.exe has stopped working