I would prefer not to

smba-nieuwsbrief-136.pdf (335 Kb)

18 April – 8 June 2014

Opening: Friday 18 April, 5 – 7 p.m.

With: Céline Berger, Etcetera…, Dora Garcia, Goldex Poldex, Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys, Stefan Müller, Mladen Stilinovi?

Curators: Stefanie Humbert and Stephanie Noach

‘I would prefer not to’ is a group exhibition exploring the significance of idleness and labour for art. With the escalating fusion of life and work due to the omnipresence of social media, and the sheer impossibility of escaping the global network of capital production, the arts have to reconsider their position in relation to work. The exhibition proposes an intimate rejection of the state of permanent availability for, and indefinite willingness to work within our contemporary society – and shows that such a rejection might be fruitful as well. The artists involved pose alternative life strategies, such as the creation of crypto currencies to invest in cultural infrastructure, or the option of acceptance when artistic processes stagnate. Overall, the exhibition is a reflection on doing nothing as the source for creativity.

‘I would prefer not to’ is part of the ‘followup’ curatorial program by the studio and exhibition centre Schloss Ringenberg in Hamminkeln, Germany.

The participating artists challenge the tautology that artworks are always the fruit of labour by including different modes of non-working in their practice. For example, for the collective Etcetera... non-working is a moment of laziness in one of the hammocks they offer to forget the work that still needs to be done. Mladen Stilinovi?’s contribution looks like a bulletin board without bulletins: the logic of the note system is undermined as all reminders on display are empty. During the opening on Friday, 18 April, Dora Garcia's The Artist Without Works (A Guided Tour Around Nothing) will be performed, navigating between failure and non-conformism, as there is no work to be seen in this guided tour. The seven artistic approaches to work in this exhibition examine the conditions and state of work within the art world from their personal perspectives, arguing for recreation and leisure in order to gain more independence, freedom of thought, and nevertheless have quality of life. All in all, laziness and rejection of work take on the guise of resistance and protest.

The exhibition offers room for contemplation on the figure of the artist, whose profession in particular has always been a fusion of life and work. However, the working life of an artist – defined by some as a cultural producer – is nowadays more easily compared to that of other workers, increasingly more so given that the digital and actual social life of each and everyone is completely dominated by economic mechanisms that even produce capital with your personal preferences. Resistance to being constantly productive then also becomes a rejection of surrender to the economic order which increasingly defines the life and work of an artist, and arguably everybody else participating in contemporary life. In light of the developments in the last decades, in which an inflexible business network arose in the art world and it became correspondingly more competitive, more global, and more market oriented, laziness and non-working are conceivably artistic methods to undercut the commodity status of artworks, for example. Perhaps the artist’s need to resist the mechanisms that speculate on financial rather than on artistic value has grown, or at least the need to reflect on the changing status of artworks has emerged. ‘I would prefer not to’ offers artistic approaches to these themes, and seems to step away from constant productiveness to foster improvement.


The exhibition is part of the curatorial program followup, a project of Schloss Ringenberg. This project’s goal is to support practice-oriented young curators and artists in collaboration with German and Dutch cultural initiatives, including the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam.

‘I would prefer not to’ is accompanied by SMBA Newsletter no. 136 with an introduction by Stefanie Humbert and Stephanie Noach. The SMBA Newsletter is bilingual (EN/NL) and available for free in SMBA, and as pdf on this website.


Stefanie Humbert (1978, Passau, Germany) is an independent curator, writer and filmmaker. She studied Fine Arts, Critical Writing and Curatorial Studies. Humbert worked before at Folkwang Museum, Oldenburger Kunstverein, and Theater am Turm. Currently she is curator-in-residence at Schloss Ringenberg.

Stephanie Noach (1986, Amsterdam, Netherlands) is a curator and writer. She has been working as an independent curator on pop-up performative presentations in New York, and for the Havana Biennial. Currently she is curator-in-residence at Schloss Ringenberg.


The exhibition has been made possible by:

Verbands-Sparkasse Wesel; Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland; Königreich der Niederlande; Stadt Hamminkeln; Mondriaan Fund; Kunststiftung NRW; Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen.

[Image: Céline Berger, Mission, 2012. Courtesy of the artist.]