In a society characterised by an imperative to perform, to be productive, to take part in a time-pressured culture of high performance, artists are more than ever pressured to work and conform to the demands of professional activity. This is not the only way. In other, more questionable words, is this the way we really want to work? How do artists manage the imbalance between work and life? Are there creative possibilities in refusal, passivity, procrastination and idleness?
The exhibition Artists of the No ultimately engages with a number of artistic propositions and works that propose a “No” – refusal, uncooperativeness, diversion, postponement, reluctance, and so forth – as a response to an existing demand that takes shape in the imperative, both imposed and imparted, to perform. In doing so – and this is the point at which the exhibition deviates from the claim that creating nothing is better than creating something (failure fundamentalism) – the works rise above socio-economic demand (as well as common thinking and behaviour) by frustrating all expectations: provoking a situation and a number of scenarios in which the potential for difference becomes tangible through imagination and aesthetic experience. Rather than becoming an insufficient gestural proxy to put another artistic act into action, perhaps, the exhibition creates a moment in which specific solutions and answers remain provocatively latent, for the right reasons. How could we possibly afford not to work, to perform – financially and existentially? What it does show is that not to “get with the program”, to break the spell of the pressure to produce for the sake of production, to put aside for a moment the overwhelming and saturated system of infra-artistic mediations, to create some space to breathe, to be and spend some time with oneself, to think, could equally be reached and established through work as a kind of performing dissent. Take your time.