PROCEDURES FOR SAYING NO
PETE / ROBERT QUILLEN CAMP
“Procedures for Saying No” was a participatory performance that imagined how banal office protocols might fare after ecological collapse. It placed its audience inside a fully constructed office setting and provided a set of tasks and procedures for them to complete, replicating the boredom of empty work while punctuating it with fleeting moments of meaning. Sitting on rolling office chairs, audiences of about 35 people drank coffee, rearranged papers, and performed private calculations about work, time, and memory.
The performance is also a play with dance and music, inspired by Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener and Moby Dick. In the first chapter of Moby Dick, the narrator Ishmael exclaims, ‘Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.’ But in “Procedures,” the sea comes to us—adventure finds us even in our little offices, with our Keurig machines and shared drives and multi-function copiers. With the sea rising outside our windows thanks to the topographical reorganizations brought by climate change, how long can we continue to follow the procedures outlined in the employee handbook?