Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, “Act 00136,” 2009. Neon sign, 31-1/2 x 51-3/16 inches.
Courtesy waterside contemporary, London and Galeri NON, Istanbul.
Karen Mirza and Brad Butler
The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal
April 18–July 14, 2013
Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
T +1 612 375 7600
The Walker Art Center presents The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal from April 18 through July 14, 2013, the first U.S. presentation of an ongoing project by London-based artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler that has traveled to Canada, Egypt, Pakistan, Germany and the United Kingdom.
In 2007, Mirza and Butler found themselves inside Islamabad’s National Gallery, watching as mass protests by the Pakistani Lawyers’ Movement—and subsequent violence from government authorities—unfolded outside. For them, this experience became a dramatic example of the challenges that artists and museums face in reconciling aesthetic practices with contemporary social realities and political conditions. In response, the duo developed The Museum of Non Participation, a roaming expansive collection of audio-visual works, workshops, presentations, and other activities.
This April, Mirza and Butler transform the Walker’s Medtronic Gallery into a multilayered installation and evolving social space that situates “non participation” at the crux of the shifting allegiances, contracts, and “new deals” between nation states and their citizens. A selection of film and video works drawn from the fictional museum’s collection highlights the precarious nature of these relationships as witnessed through significant global events. Hold Your Ground (2012) intersperses documentary footage of demonstrations during the Arab Spring and Occupy London, amongst others, with the choreographed actions of a performer who both attempts to teach and struggles to speak. Direct Speech Acts, Act 00157 (2011) offers overlapping testimonies or “speech acts” from an actor, artist, and writer to reflect on the relationships between political speech and action. In The Exception and the Rule (2009), portraits of daily lives and public spaces in contemporary India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom reveal the continued entanglements of Empire.
Mirza and Butler debut two new works, the wall-based installation The New Deal and the opening-night performance, The Exception and the Rule. The former draws on the Walker’s history and collection to construct tensions between policies of the New Deal era and the United States’ role in envisioning the governing structures of Iraq during the ongoing occupation. The latter engages members of the Twin Cities community to interpret Bertolt Brecht’s 1929 tale of corruption, exploitation and injustice—drawing compelling parallels to today’s culture.
A series of short commissioned texts by Minneapolis-based and international contributors, published on the Walker’s website through the exhibition’s run, offer different constructions, interpretations, and definitions of non participation.
The Museum of Non Participation: The New Deal is curated by Yesomi Umolu, with Susannah Bielak of the Walker Art Center.
About the artists
Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998 with earlier works emerging from their interest in seminal avant-garde film. In 2004, they formed no.w.here, an artist-run organization that combines film production and critical dialogue on contemporary image making. The Museum of Non Participation was an Artangel project in 2009 and featured in The Museum Show at the Arnolfini, Bristol in 2011. Mirza and Butler’s work was recently shown at the Serpentine Gallery (London), Witte de With (Rotterdam), Kunstverein Medienturm (Graz), as well as in Transport for London’s Art on the Underground program. They were nominees for the 2012 Jarman Award. Mirza and Butler’s political alignment directly informs not only the content of their work but their collective approach to production.
The exhibition is made possible by generous support from Robert and Rebecca Pohlad.