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Ibraaz Talks: 13th Istanbul Biennial

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler: Social Imagination

005 / 24 October 2013


Ibraaz Talks is a series of specially curated conversations with artists, curators and writers. Participants are invited to respond to a particular issue or keyword that addresses formal and conceptual issues affecting both their personal practices and contemporary visual culture. Initiated at Art Dubai in 2013, this latest series was staged at SALT Beyoğlu during the opening days of the 13th Istanbul Biennial. This talk, between Karen Mirza and Brad Butler (of artist-run space no.w.here) and Ibraaz Senior Editor Omar Kholeif, considers the ideas around the social imagination, taking into account the fact that Mirza and Butler have engaged directly with this idea through such projects as the The Museum of Non Participation, a strain of the artists' practice initiated in 2007.

About the author

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler

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. www.no-w-here.org.uk 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 This ongoing body of work confronts (non) participation and the socio-political in art works. This Museum consistently evolves through the geo-political ground upon which its works are produced and presented, in keeping with its initial formation. Thus far this work has been presented in Egypt, Pakistan, Germany and the UK.


Mirza and Butler have recently launched a new film, entitled Deep State, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and made in collaboration with science fiction author China Mieville which takes its starting point in different moments of political struggle. A sister film to Deep State, Hold Your Ground was first presented as an Art on the Underground commission at Canary Wharf Tube Station April 25 - May 24 2012. Other upcoming projects include a solo exhibition at the Walker Art Centre opening on 18th April 2013 and Implicated Theatre: a year long project working with the Theatre of the Oppressed, the Migrants Resource Centre and the Centre for Possible Studies.


Brad and Karen's political alignment directly informs not only the content of their work but their collective approach to production.