The Museum Of Non Participation

An ongoing London-Karachi Collaboration, September 2008 - June 2009

Supported by Artangel UK and Vasl Pakistan



London and Karachi: both are cities of my imagination, made real only through mortgages, the price of a meal and quality of domestic help.


Mohammed Hanif, Guardian June 24th 2008


The Museum of Non-Participation is a cross cultural artistic investigation and appraisal of standard forms of representing and experiencing the everyday.

In the context of Karachi the flexible terms of the title have come to encompass a new way of moving through and looking at the city, in a city with almost no museums, the city itself becomes the museum. Non participation becomes a form of resistance and questions the choice and consequence of action or inaction.

The scars of colonialism, partition and subsequent post colonialist ventures of improvement run deep in Karachi. Representations of Pakistan by Western media portrays a rogue state, suffering from conflict, extremism, natural disasters and sporadic martial law, made more fearsome by its nuclear status. Mirza and Butler seek to discover the patterns of everyday life, and how to represent them in this environment. Carrying with them their outside perceptions of the city, they are investigating the realities of Karachi through its inhabitants and the built environment.



Distribution of the museum of non participation newspaper intervention into the defence market tandoor walla.


Mirza and Butler’s Museum of Non-participation is a pop up institution, demarcated by a text banner which produces vastly different responses and meanings when situated within their workspace at the Arts Council Pakistan, and then outside in the streets. The Museum throws up questions of urbanism, institutionalisation, space, cultural and societal divisions. Mirza and Butler are questioning the concept of the city, and the issues at stake, carrying back to London with them questions which are poignantly relevant to their own sprawling metropolis.



Non participation in Karachi emerges from a place where dividing walls are higher than buildings which house privilege. The strictures of conflict, class and monetary divisions within a globalised world provoke an engagement with the problems of participating, or not participating in such a system, whether in Karachi, London or elsewhere.

In addressing these issues Mirza and Butler have formed communities which seek to resist these systems, producing a space within which it is safe to question and challenge. In London, an Urdu-English language class has been ongoing, developing the notion of a temporary community space, bringing together varied individuals. This fits into the museum as a question, a place, a non-place and a space of discussion. As the museum travels back to London and beyond, the aim is to provoke thought and actions among a wide spectrum of communities and (non) participants. Drawing on the richness of the everyday at each site, The Museum of Non-Participation examines how our lives in one space have implications on the other.


December 2008


The Museum of Non Participation intervention gallery talk at the Indian Highway exhibition the Serpentine Gallery London 10th Jan 2009


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