Karen Mirza / Brad Butler

The Museum of Non Participation

Bethnal Green Road, London
24 September 2009 - 25 October 2009

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.

The Museum of Non Participation confronts (non) participation and the socio-political in art works, raising questions about resistance and the choice and consequence of action versus inaction. Over an eighteen month period Mirza and Butler worked between London and Karachi, Pakistan with street vendors, Urdu translators, architects, estate agents, housing activists, lawyers, hairdressers, filmmakers, wedding photographers, newspaper printers, artists and writers. The Museum of Non Participation has variously taken the form of a film, an Urdu/English language exchange, a series of street interventions, a radio show and a performance. 

As part of The Museum of Non Participation, a month-long festival was held behind Yaseen barbers shop on Bethnal Green Road, London, which brought together the multiple participants of the project in a programme of film screenings, talks, discussions, Urdu poetry and performance. A newspaper publication featuring interpretations of the Museum was distributed across the UK as a supplement of The Daily Jang, the international newspaper from Pakistan’s oldest and largest media group. 


Image: Intervention by The Museum of Non Participation on a boundary wall in Karachi, Pakistan, 2008. Photograph: Karen Mirza

Video: The Exception and the Rule (Excerpt)

Read more

The Exception and the Rule (Excerpt)

Shot primarily in Karachi, The Exception and the Rule employs a variety of strategies in negotiating consciously political themes. Avoiding traditional documentary modes, the film frames everyday activities within a period of civil unrest, incorporating performances to camera, public interventions and observation. – Mark Webber, London Film Festival


The excerpt is also available to view on Vimeo and YouTube. The full film is 39 minutes. 

Image: Still from Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, The Exception and the Rule (2009). 

Audio: Karen Mirza and Brad Butler on The Museum of Non Participation

14 minutes 25 seconds
Read more

Audio: Karen Mirza and Brad Butler on The Museum of Non Participation

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler can be heard discussing The Museum of Non Participation in the first Artangel Podcast, released on 21 January 2010. They talk about how the changing nature of the project took them from The National Gallery of Art, Islamabad, Pakistan to a space behind Yaseen Hairdressers shop in Bethnal Green, London.

You can listen to the podcast on Soundcloud. Part 2: The Museum of Non Particpation starts from 11 minutes 30 seconds. 


Image: Urdu-English class at the Whitechapel Gallery's Guernica Room, part of The Museum of Non Participation by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler (2009). Photograph: Unknown. 

Behind the Barber's

Selected salon recordings
Read more

Audio: The Salon and the Public Sphere

A series of salon events held behind the Barbers, an intimate gathering for conversation and an exchange of ideas. You can listen to all the events on Soundcloud


 

Talk: Nick Davies, On Language as Violence 

Award-winning investigative journalist Nick Davies led an informal discussion on the role and power of the media in an international context drawing on ideas in his controversial exposé of the truth behind the headlines, Flat Earth News. 

 

Talk: Fatos Ustek, Future Imaginary

Critic and curator Fatos Ustek discussed the future of the Museum of Non Participation with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler as a real institution. What might the collection be, and where would it exist? 

 

Talk: Ruth Beale and David Rushton, Miss B’s Salon behind the Salon

Artist Ruth Beale hosted a salon event with Dave Rushton on media and autonomy. Rushton was a member of Art & Language and is the founder of the Institute of Local Television. He has been a powerful voice in campaigning for media freedom since the 1970s. 


Image: Through the window of Yaseen Hairdressers, Bethnal Green, temporary home of The Museum of Non Participation, 2009. Photograph: Brad Butler.  

Writing: About The Museum of Non Participation

185KB Download
Read more

About the Museum of Non Participation

Working over an eighteen month period with street vendors, Urdu translators, architects, estate agents, housing activists, lawyers, hairdressers, filmmakers, wedding photographers, newspaper printers, artists and writers, they have played out different manifestations of The Museum of Non Participation.

Read the complete essay

 


Image: Offending Images, Urdu and English text, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, 2009. Photograph: Karen Mirza and Brad Butler

Writing: Preface to a History of the Museum of Non Participation

Pancho Villa
Read more

Preface to a History of the Museum of Non Participation

Pancho Villa

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.

Read the complete essay

 


Image: Building in Karachi, Pakistan, 2009. Photograph: Karen Mirza and Brad Butler

The Museum of Non Participation Newspaper

4.6MB Download
Read more

The Musuem of Non Participation Newspaper

On 20 September 2009 a newspaper publication featuring different voices and interpretations of The Museum of Non Participation and its somewhat paradoxical title was distributed across the UK as a supplement of the international newspaper The Daily Jang.

The newspaper compiled text and image contributions from collaborators and participants and was designed by the Jang's London based designer Yousuf Haider. The broadsheet-sized newspaper was split into two halves — one in Urdu and one in English, each containing identical articles. The Daily Jang is the the largest circulated Urdu language newspaper in the UK & Globally.

  • Published as part of Karen Mirza and Brad Butler's The Musuem of Non Participation, commissioned and produced by Artangel Interaction with support from the National Lottery through Arts Council England in collaboration with the Daily Jang London. 
  • Designed by Yousuf Haider, The Daily Jang
  • 10 pages 

 


Image: Printing The Museum of Non Participation Newspaper in London, 2009. Photograph: unknown. 

Press

Read more

The Museum of Non Participation is a cumulative and experiential project. Standing against the formal traditions of art, The Museum is a state of encounter. – Jospehine Breese, This is Tomorrow

Much discussion of The Museum of Non Participation has focused on its identity. What is it? How does it function? Where is it? These queries are best answered through its enterprises. Unique to individual relationships with the initiative and paradoxically dependent on participation, The Museum of Non Participation is a cumulative and experiential project. Standing against the formal traditions of art, The Museum is a state of encounter. It is a presence developed and challenged through contributions to its voice. – Josephine Breese, This is Tomorrow, 12 October 2009

Using film, video, found footage and photography, The Exception and the Rule throws its own site, narrative and production into question, particularly through use of direct (though unacknowledged) citations, its ambiguous application of fictional elements, and through a use of text and spoken English or Urdu.  – Gemma Sharpe, Afterall, 6 July 2010 

If the Museum of Non Participation is a non-museum, The Exception and the Rule is a non-documentary film. One learns as little about a foreign culture via the media as one learns about the vital artistic moment (symbolized in myth by the muses) via a museum. The film entwines images of the Other in a complex interweave of medial references and formal refractions; it insists on the moment of non-communicable experience – and thus exacts from the viewer the direct, ‘uncomfortable’ encounter with the real Other. – Marcel Schwierin, EMAN, 2009

About the Artists

Read more

Karen Mirza / Brad Butler

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998, developing a layered practice which consists of film, installation, performance, publishing and curating. Their work challenges terms such as participation, collaboration and the traditional roles of the artist as producer and the audience as recipient.

Recent exhibitions include The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal, Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis, 2013; Performa 13, New York, 2013; Derin Devlet (Deep State), Galeri NON, Istanbul, 2014 and MIRRORCITY, Hayward Gallery, London, 2014. The Museum of Non Participation was nominated for the Artes Mundi Award 2014. 

In 2004, Mirza and Butler formed no.w.here, an artist-run organization that combines film production with critical dialogue about contemporary image making.

filer_public_thumbnails/filer_public/31/87/31873a05-74b5-4ad6-a4d8-3975482c7fd5/2009tmonp_artist03.jpg__300x999999_q85_subject_location-799,835_subsampling-2.jpg

Images: Karen Mirza below The Museum of Non Participation banner (left); Brad Butler (above), both Karachi, Pakistan, 2009. Photographs: unknown

Credits

Read more

Who made this possible?

Credits

Commissioned and produced by Artangel Interaction in collaboration with VASL Arts Collective and the Jang Newspaper. The Museum of Non Participation is supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.  

Artangel is generously supported by Arts Council England and the private patronage of the Artangel International CircleSpecial AngelsGuardian Angels and The Company of Angels.


 

filer_public_thumbnails/filer_public/29/0f/290f9eba-5200-42b1-8014-c8194fde06a4/lottery_logo_black.png__99999x100_q85_subject_location-500,201_subsampling-2.png
filer_public_thumbnails/filer_public/fd/c3/fdc361ff-570e-482d-8cad-61bd31dd318f/logo_vasl.png__99999x100_q85_subsampling-2.png
filer_public_thumbnails/filer_public/6e/c3/6ec31fd9-97e8-48f8-8308-fa40e1796de1/logo_jang.png__99999x100_q85_subsampling-2.png