The work in the exhibition investigated signs and symbols of acedia in Western art from the Renaissance onwards. The images were juxtaposed with quotations from Gustave Flaubert’s The Temptation of St. Antony (1874), ‘The legend of St Julian the hospitaller’ (from ‘Trois Contes’ (1877)), and Pierre de Marivaux’s ‘Apology of Nothing’ (‘L’eloge du rien’, from the novel ‘Pharsamon ou Les Folies romanesques'(1737)). The work signified ideas of idleness and boredom through objects and situations, reinterpreting the iconography of the deadly sins.
Using the resources of the Warburg Institute in London, Richon’s research included a systematic enquiry into the iconography of acedia, as well as related texts from Renaissance studies. The work translated signs and symbols of acedia while expanding the visual vocabulary for a contemporary understanding of the relevance of idleness. The analogue photographs were conceived as melancholic images that referred to something that is lost, absent or inscrutable. Melancholia is understood as a particular attraction for reading signs and symbols that have gradually lost their meaning and function, and that are now haunting the contemporary landscape of representations.
Research into acedia was developed through a critical reading of the concept of the image-as-appearance in Plato’s Sophist, in Richon’s article, ‘The sophist and the photograph’, published in Philosophy of Photography (2010). His essay, ‘Acedia – on dreaming and idleness’ was published in the book Seeing for Others (2012). The exhibition ‘Acedia’ was reviewed in Art in America (2013) and Elephant (Winter 2012–13).