around / work

"In a world where our value is determined by our productivity, many of us find our every last minute captured, optimized, or appropriated as a financial resource by the technologies we use daily. We submit our free time to numerical evaluation, interact with algorithmic versions of each other, and build and maintain personal brands."
Jenny Odell, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
"Work and pleasure need reinvention."
Lauren Berlant, Cruel Optimism
"I would prefer not to."
Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street

If you weren’t working, what work would you be working on? If you weren’t going to work, where would you be going? When asked to work, do you say, “I would prefer not to?” And if so, what would you prefer?

DesignInquiry invites curious makers and thinkers from all disciplines to around / work, a six-day residency designed to consider these questions#. Join us in a radical reimagining of work by proposing a project that responds to or frames the work that brings us joy, pleasure, and sustenance. Projects can revolve around your current work or spin into a new orbit; iterate on an existing idea#; or benefit from an exchange#. We invite individuals as well as collaborative teams to apply.

This gathering might be understood as downright refusal#. In the 24/7 age of non-stop work, it seems more outrageous than ever to deploy Bartleby the Scrivener’s polite response to demands from his boss. In preferring not to work on something, we are implying that we have other preferences, other work we would rather do#. We ask, what is the work you would rather do#?

We’ll gather for a collaborative design residency on the island of Vinalhaven off the coast of Maine to spin these ideas around and through the work we make. How might a communal gathering impact your work?

Request an application questionnaire at info@designinquiry.net. If funding is an issue, we invite you to inquire about a scholarship.

Dates and Location

June 18–24, 2023
Vinalhaven, Maine


$825.00 USD contribution to cover housing, groceries for shared meals, and some drinks. Limited scholarships are available. 24 applicants will be accepted. Proof of vaccination (including booster) is required.

  1. around / work is a partner event to work / around, a DesignInquiry residency taking place in the UK in fall 2023. Check the newsletter for updates!

  2. around / work might also be understood structurally - what is literally around your work that holds it? Like the frame around a painting. Or a footnote.

  3. See Akira Lippet’s Ex-Cinema: From a Theory of Experimental Film and Video, and his exploration of the “exergue.” Lippit explains, “An exergue, from the Greek ex (outside) and ergon (work), refers to a space outside the work, outside the essential body of the work, and yet part of, even essentially—a part and apart.”

  4. See Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber.

  5. See The Nap Ministry, founded in 2016 by Tricia Hersey and dedicated to “the liberating power of naps” with the slogan, “Rest is resistance.”

  6. Gardening, humming, singing. Visiting, organizing, doodling.