Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998, and in 2004 formed no.w.here, an artist-run space for the production, discussion and dissemination of practices engaged with the moving image, politics, technology and aesthetics. no.w.here’s role as a cooperative environment is directly related to the centering of Mirza and Butler’s own practice upon collaboration, dialogue and the social.
Since 2007 they have pursued a strain of practice entitled The Museum of Non Participation. The Museum of Non Participation is a collection of gestures, speech acts and audio-visual works which has thus far been presented in Egypt, Pakistan, Germany and the UK. The Museum consistently evolves through the geo-political ground upon which its works are produced and presented, in keeping with its initial formation. In 2007, the Museum of Non Participation was born during a visit to the newly opened National Gallery of Art in Islamabad. As Mirza and Butler stood inside the controversial gallery of nude paintings, they witnessed the large scale protests of the Lawyers Movement taking place from within the boundaries of the museum. In that stark collision of art and political praxis, the project germinated and has subsequently remained intent on interrogating this relationship. Out of that initial formation, Mirza and Butler produced The Exception and the Rule (2010) a non-documentary that draws out tropes of ethnographic film and the ‘Other’. The Museum of Non Participation was developed through an Artangel Interaction commission which included a month long public-programme behind a Bethnal Green barbers (2010) and a collaboration with the largest circulating Pakistani broadsheet, The Daily Jang. In 2011 new ‘acts’ within the collection of The Museum of Non Participation took place at ZKM Karlsruhe and at the Arnolfini, Bristol.
Mirza and Butler are currently producing a new film, entitled Deep State, in collaboration with science fiction author China Mieville which takes its starting point in different moments of political struggle, informed particularly by the recent revolutionary processes which took place in Egypt. A sister film to Deep State, Hold Your Ground will be presented as an Art on the Underground commission at Canary Wharf Tube Station in Spring 2012. Other upcoming projects include a Bookworks commission entitled Letters to the Left, an exhibition at the Walker Art Centre and a residency at SAVAC in Toronto in Autumn 2012. They are actively involved as member of the Precarious Workers Brigade; their political alignment directly informs not only the content of their work but their collective approach to production.
Early works by Mirza and Butler emerged from their interest in seminal avant-garde film. Non Places (1999) is a contemporary take on the constructivist films of the 1920s; Where a Straight Line Meets a Curve (2003) drew inspiration from the use of resonant frequencies in Alvin Lucier’s I am Sitting in a Room (1970). Mirza/Butler often took a single visual observation as a point of departure, such as the space between tower blocks in The Space Between (2005), the gesture of performing a 360 degree walking rotation with a camera in Structural Constellation (2006) or the cinematic principles inherent in photo realist painting in The Glass Stare (2006). Within these works Mirza and Butler intertwine a range of visual and conceptual languages, combining analytical and experimental sequences to create open-ended works.
Karen Mirza's multi-layered practice consists of filmmaking, drawing, installation, photography, performance, publishing and curating. Karen is currently a PhD Student in Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College undertaking a project which interrogates how moments of change, protest, non-alignment and debate intersect with the visual and its institutions. Karen Mirza’s art practice started within a background in painting from Camberwell College of Art and continued through her MA in film and video at the Royal College of Art. www.no-w-here.org.uk.
Karen Mirza Solo Work
Brad Butler’s practice consists of filmmaking, installation, photography and performance. Brad has a doctorate in Experimental Ethnography from the London College of Communication. His doctoral research considers the potential cross-fertilisation of a structural film practice with experimental ethnography to challenge dominant assumptions about cultural representation in anthropology and to suggest ways in which anthropology can actively interrogate visual systems as a means of renewing the avant-gardism of structural film. Prior to his PhD Brad studied film at the Royal College of Art and Anthropology at University College London. Experimental film and Anthropology
Brad Butler Solo Work