“I would prefer not to,” is a famed and much repeated line in Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street (1853). Bartleby is the character of this fiction piece, first published in two-parts and later compiled as a single story. As an office desk worker who had worked in the dead letter office, which administers undeliverable mail, Bartleby sees no way out of the system. Dropping out of a system—for example, the one of the so-called art world—has been a recurring move for many who have little to no expectations of, or common beliefs in, a normative, and especially urban, environment.

An exhibition with an audio script by Sarah Demeuse and Wendy Tronrud, as well as a soundtrack by Mario García Torres in collaboration with Sol Oosel explores various cases of dropping out. In a deserted gallery environment, illustrated through the color scales of dawn, morning, high noon, twilight, and night, two sound pieces are available. On the one hand, an audio-script is accessed through wireless headphones; on the other, a music soundtrack is featured as the exhibition’s lyrical ambience. The exhibition is considered an emotional cartography of dropping out.

Demeuse and Tronrud’s script asks what force fields—economic, gender, race, institutional, geographic—determine whether someone is seen as a “real” dropout. How and when do narratives about the dropout evoke romantic or pathological frameworks? What does the dropout become symptomatic of and what can we learn from the “dropout” in terms of our own models of productivity and living?

García Torres, who collaborates with the musician Oosel, has conducted significant artistic research for over a decade on visual artists and musicians who have retreated from the mainstream or left an urban context. For this exhibition, he is invited to focus on artists who have left or who have worked from the margins, especially in the desert.

During the course of this exhibition Grace Ellen BarkeyAndrea Eva Gyori, and Johanna Tengan have been invited to punctuate the exhibitions with live performances. Please consult the calendar for a schedule of these events. A series of public programs will also be held during the exhibition.

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