24th February – 8th April 2007
Already through the big windows the pedestrians passing by the Davidstrasse can see the silver-grey script. There, high above their heads, where five artists have so far realized their work on the frieze, there shines, emblazoned, the inscription I would prefer not to continue here. Together wit the lobby's design, the phrase seems confounding. It remains ambiguous who is referring to what. Does the statement address the reader by using the first person, in order to issue an unconscious instruction how to behave in the lobby? Without further specifying the speaker's identity, the statement seems a mere ornament, decoration only, a mise en scène of a connecting wall.
Yet the statement alludes to a literary icon by the author Herman Melville (1819-1891). In his short story Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street (1853) the author creates a character named Bartleby, who with an inner resistance confronts his work assignments with the repetitive laconic reply I would prefer not to. As a basic pattern this general statement might be uttered in any conceivable situation. Only linguistic specification pointing at a precise time, space and activity turns it into a meaningful statement. On the frieze this specification runs on with the continue here, and it simultaneously announces an end and a new beginning.
The proposition I would prefer not to continue here alludes to the transitional phase of the Neue Kunst Halle at the intersection of two curatorships. This change not only entails a personal handover, but additionally also implies a new spatial set-up. The lobby – and with it the frieze itself – will be replaced by a new exhibition space. The white walls will be extended at the bottom and are meant to serve as a locality for an alternating exhibition programme. By this structural adaptation the Neue Kunst Halle's outer appearance and the Corporate Identity, markedly defined by the representative lobby including the frieze, yields room to a prosaic exhibition space.
The severance generated by the building modification is further articulated on the Internet. By the work on the website www.k9000.ch the two artists Tamara de Wehr and Joëlle Allet will subtly undermine the Corporate Identity of the Neue Kunst Halle. The visitors themselves can literally get the picture at the Internet-desk in the lobby, and they are thus on their own in the position to follow the leads planted by the artists.
In this manner, by means of a literary statement, Tamara de Wehr and Joëlle Allet manage to visualize an as yet only verbally recorded idea of change, which is to be physically implemented in space later this spring. Both the frieze's significance as a means of communication and the lobby as a representative space are accentuated by the artistic work. In this way, the changeover in the Neue Kunst Halle is expressed at the same time in aesthetic as well as linguistic terms.
Tamara de Wehr lives and works in Fully (VS), Switzerland. www.tamara-de-wehr.com
Joëlle Allet lives in Zurich and Leukerbad. She is currently attending a fine art course at the "Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst" in Zurich. She was an intern at the Neue Kunsthalle St. Gallen until March 2007.