NON Gallery: Deep State

Deep State 

Karen Mirza & Brad Butler

January 8 – February 15, 2014

NON presents “Deep State”, a solo exhibition featuring the work of Karen Mirza and Brad Butler. The show places at its center the 40 minute long HD film by Mirza and Butler that has been scripted in collaboration with the science fiction author China Miéville. The film takes its title from the Turkish term ‘Derin Devlet’, meaning ‘state within the state’. This shadowy nexus of special interests and covert relationships is the place where real power is said to reside, and where fundamental decisions are made – decisions that often run counter to the outward impression of democracy.

Amorphous and unseen, the influence of this deep state is glimpsed at regular points throughout the film – most clearly surfacing in its reflexive responses to popular protest, and in legislated acts of violence and containment, but also rumbling and reverberating, deeper down, in a counter-language to that of popular revolt, in which a police charge, a baton attack, pepper spray, assassinations provoke, and respond to, a raised fist, a thrown rock, a crowd surge, an occupation.

A powerful undertow in the ongoing tide of history, this push and pull of competing forces is deftly illuminated in a vivid montage of newly filmed and archive footage. Collided together, past, present and future form a continuum, in which clear patterns start to recur. A ‘riotonaut’ time-travels through momentous demonstrations, at first an addict, then something more, passing through the holes punched in history by uprisings. On a moonscape, confronted with a picket that becomes a riot, an ur-dictator, personification of the “Deep State”, blurts stupefying, hot-air abstractions of neo-liberalism.


Intersecting with a larger body of work entitled ‘The Museum of Non Participation’, Deep State germinated from Mirza and Butler’s experiences in Cairo prior to the occupation of Tahrir Square, at a time when it seemed impossible to speak about resistance. This sharpened Mirza and Butler’s interest in making a work which calls out and dislodges ossified language and images. Embodied by the figure of the language teacher in “Deep State”, this pedagogy is both a physical and verbal move away from fossilised conceptions of resistance into new, unimagined possibilities.

The exhibition space will host the screening of “Deep State” along with a number of works incorporated into the film. By extracting physical elements from the work and displaying them separately but in conjunction to the film, exhibiton aims to counteract the viewer’s removal from the political concerns underlying the work. The installation within the gallery space therefore seeks to highlight how the dissemination of imagery throughout society has leant itself as an artistic medium to the artists as well as a contemporary form of protest to those involved in a struggle against the deep state.

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998 and since 2007 they have pursued a strain of practice entitled The Museum of Non Participation, intent on interrogating the interrelationship of politics and art, implication, participation and potential for active agent withdrawal. Within this fictional museum Mirza and Butler’s film The Exception and the Rule (2009) was nominated for the Transmediale Award in Berlin and was the Festival Award winner at The 2010 Chicago Experimental Film and Video Festival. Whilst the works Deep State and Hold Your Ground were nominated for the Jarman Award 2012. Recent solo exhibitions, screenings and performances include The Museum of Non Participation, an Artangel commission, London, 2009, What will the next revolution look like? at NON and nowiswere, Istanbul, 2011; The Daily Battle, VIVID, Birmingham, 2011; The New Deal at Walker Arts Centre 2013 and The Guest of Citation at Performa 2013. Karen Mirza and Brad Butler are nominees for Artes Mundi 6 in 2014 a prestigious award for contemporary visual artists who engage with the human condition, social reality and lived experience.

China Miéville lives and works in London. He is a three-time winner of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award and has also won the British Fantasy Award twice. The City & The City, an existential thriller, was published to dazzling critical acclaim and drew comparison with the works of Kafka and Orwell and Philip K. Dick. His previous novel, Embassytown, was a first and widely praised foray into science fiction (published in 2011).

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