Launched with Artangel Interaction, The Museum of non Participation situated itself as a museum without walls, inspired by its founders experiences moving between their home in Bethnal Green and the city of Karachi in Pakistan from 2007-2009. The resulting ‘socially engaged practice’ from 2007-2016 included interventions, newspapers, wall chalking, reading groups, language exchange, performance lectures, audioworks, walks, political theatre, and Speech Acts. The Museum launched in London in a space behind a barbers shop on Bethnal Green Road where Butler and Mirza hosted a space for language exchange between Urdu and English Speakers. A newspaper collecting a multitude voices on this project was published as a supplement in collaboration with one of Pakistan's largest media grouos: the Daily Jang. The Museum culminated in 2016 in a solo exhibition at the Sydney Biennale.: ‘The Embassy of non Participation
Original Museum of Non Participation Manifesto
The Museum of Non Participation confronts (non) participation and the socio-political in art works. Non Participation is not a negation, it is a threshold a political plastic that expands and contracts, that is both unstable and malleable. This is an international neoliberal life condition, frequently (un) consciously exercised in the excess of one's own society, often gained at the expense of another's nameless plight elsewhere. Whilst locally it can be witnessed, for example, in the moment urgent social issues are both recognized and simultaneously ignored or rejected. It is also a structure including, in the UK, the filtering of government and corporate policies and agendas through the arts and arts funding.
Museums interrelate hierarchy and exclusion, social critique and (post) colonization. So The Museum of Non Participation embeds its institutional critique in its very title yet it releases itself from being an actual museum. Instead it travels as a place, a slogan, a banner, a performance, a newspaper, a film, an intervention, an occupation sitautions that enable this museum to act. Thus the Museum of Non Participation does not disavow art objects, but it is driven to dislodge them from their central position within the field of art. To choose to look past the art object to the etymology of object, from the Latin obicere, meaning to present, oppose, or cast or throw in the way of.
This Museum explores obicere through multiple, ephemeral processes: artworks as well as events and actions that neither the founding artists nor museums possess through sole authorship. In a similar vein, The Museum of Non Participation approaches collecting as not merely assembling objects, but as an act that assembles and ushers forth action and agency and does so through disruption. It asks how withdrawal can be made visible? how can non participation be active and critical?
The Museum of Non Participation is one aspect of Noor Afshan Mirza and Brad Butlers wider artistic practice, an investigation of the terms and conditions of images, objects, collaboration, dialogue and the social.
From 2004, to 2018 no.w.here was a not for profit artist run organization based in Tower Hamlets that combined film production alongside critical dialogue about contemporary image making. As an artist run platform no.w.here supported the production of artist works, runs multiple workshops and critical discussions, and actively curated performances, screenings, residencies, publications, events and exhibitions. no.w.here's national and international projects explored political and aesthetic questions around contemporary image production and systems of distribution and no.w.here's ideas came directly from a participatory artistic practice that did not take these terms for granted.
no.w.here was committed to high quality collaborations from major museums to local initiatives. Projects included "The Cinema of Prayoga": a 5 year research project and UK tour of Indian Experimental film: "The Free Cinema School" a contemporary film pedagogy: "Sequence": a new journal of artists writing on the moving image: "Light Reading a platform for direct discussion between artist and audience: "Instructions for Films" films made without the camera and "Image | Event" a platform for critical discourse within the "Image Mouvement" exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Art Geneva.
no.w.here's bespoke film equipment was not available anywhere else in the UK.
James Holcombe who ran no.w.here with us for many years now runs his own film facilities. To get in contact with him use the contact below