"These people are the actors.
There is no possibility of escape
In fact the spectators have no choice
They are obliged violently to participate"
Karen Mirza and Brad Butler conceived The Museum of Non Participation in 2007 when - during the Pakistani Lawyers movement in Islamabad - they viewed the protests and subsequent state violence from a window in The National Art Gallery.
Since then they have pursued ideas connected to their position that day - through conversation, images, activities and narratives following strands of dialogue to different people, places and contexts.
By chance, term two of the Urdu/English language exchange came to be held behind Yaseen Hairdressers, a Bethnal Green barber's shop. During a location-scouting walk after the classes ceased at Oxford House, we paused and peered inside a window decorated with pillarbox red stickers of scissors and combs. Mohammad, a participant in the first round of Urdu/English classes also happened to be a barber, and worked at Yaseen between trips home to Lahore. He stepped out to greet us, inviting us in for chai. We sat at the back while several customers chatted in Urdu and English accompanied by the buzz of hair clippers.
What is The Museum of Non Participation? Does it have a mission, and collections? Is it an enigma, a paradox, or a joke? Might it be all these and more, or simply one more art-world folly competing for attention? Do its founders ask serious questions, or question seriousness? Is it disinterest or complicity in disguise? Is its title a misnomer? Many questions confront this project; perhaps that is its purpose, because in querying it we are forced to interrogate the boundaries of participation and museums.