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Issue 40 / September 2018
eds. Steven Henry Madoff, Brian Kuan Wood

We Would Prefer Not To

This issue of OnCurating takes political resistance and sanctuary as its subject, with Herman Melville’s nineteenth-century literary avatar Bartleby—famous for his refrain “I would prefer not to”—as its tutelary spirit. Forms of civil disobedience and tricksterism are coterminous agents in artistic and curatorial practices, both historical and contemporary. How to subvert and subvene, how to recast structural mechanisms of suppression and oppression, how to avoid, deny, magnify, spatially disjoint, and refute (earnestly, comically)? By what means can we, as cultural producers, refuse, while fostering a discourse of reparation? The activism now crucial in the face of ascendant political forces bent on the disavowal of democratic principles and underwritten by neoliberalism’s evisceration of once-prominent ideals of liberty can look to previous projects, certainly from the milestone of Bartleby as an existential figure of mild but implacable will, and onward from there. These are the concerns and exemplary instances, from Ancient Greece to Fukushima to imaginings of dystopian futures, highlighted here in essays, accounts of exhibitions, portfolios of images, and interviews