GABRIELLE STELLBAUM Bartleby

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Bartleby
17:30
2009

For her video installation piece “Bartleby”, Gabriele Stellbaum re-figured a gallery space 2009 into a film set. Cigar-brown wooden panels covered the walls, while two office desks with swivel chairs invited the visitor to sit down and watch a video projection that filled the space.

Stellbaum’s piece draws from American author Herman Melville’s 1853 story Bartleby the Scrivener -A Tale of Wall Street.
In Stellbaum’s version of this famous work, the protagonist Bartleby is cast as a female office worker: pallid, neat, pitiably respectable, incurably forlorn–an ever-present clerk, an insignificant figure who drives her employer into frustration and capitulation with her calm but resolute refusal to comply. The story is presented from the perspective of Bartleby’s employer, a figure never shown in the video.
Whenever Bartleby is asked to do anything, she simply and politely replies “I would prefer not to” and then continues with the work she is doing. This behavior continues until the day Bartleby finally quits doing any work at all and just remains sitting at her desk. This policy of refusal drives her employer out of the premises while Bartleby prefers not to quit her job.
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