Bartlebabe is the third collaboration between Anna Franziska Jäger and Nathan Ooms. The piece uses Bartleby the Scrivener (1853), the famous novel by American writer Herman Melville, as a framework to observe a world subject to rapid processes of digitalisation and rationalisation. What do these evolutions mean for our notions of subjectivity and what effect do they have on human relationships?
Bartleby the Scrivener tracks the experiences of a lawyer who decides to hire a singular young man named Bartleby as copyist at his Wall Street law firm. Despite the latter’s withdrawn attitude and air of absence, Bartleby’s work is thorough and remarkably fast. One day, however, his boss request to copy some document is answered, without any apparent cause, with the words ‘I would prefer not to’. The more Bartleby repeats these words at every inquiry, the more he starts to fade away as a person and becomes a disruptive present in office life. As a figure, Bartleby appeals to our imagination; his unruly ‘I would prefer not to’ not only offers a negative mode of resistance against a calcified system, but also renders the system itself impossible. In Bartlebabe we explore the limits of the Bartleby archetype, without falling into fear of corruption or degeneration. Up to what point is Bartleby just a character in a novel and when does he come to stand for a worldview? What other unruly figures stem from this 19th century character? Bartlebabe aims to be a contemporary Satyr play, marked by the desire to give space to that what is unpredictable and improbable.