The House of the Unexpected

12 Sept - 14 Oct 2012
Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto Missisauga 3359 Mississauga Rd

Co-presented by Blackwood Gallery

Curatorial Essay
The House of the Unexpected Blog

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler are London (UK) -based artists/filmmakers who have worked together since 1998. Starting in 2007, they have pursued a strain of practice entitled The Museum of Non Participation, a collaborative collection of gestures, speech acts and audio-visual work which have been created and presented in Pakistan, Egypt, Germany and the UK. The Museum of Non-Participation contests the idea of the museum as a neutral or passive space for the representation of culture. It takes as its foundation, the idea that cultural production is necessarily informed by the social, political and economic circumstances of a place at a specific time.

Mirza and Butler, in collaboration with SAVAC, will be artists-in-residence at the Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto Mississauga this fall. The House of the Unexpected is an extension of Mirza and Butler’s on-going project The Museum of Non-Participation. Working with structured processes of collectivity, they will examine questions of race, class, gender, labour and language to address the shifting terms of equity and agency under rapidly changing economic regimes.

This invitation to The House of the Unexpected, is therefore an invitation to contribute to a series of gatherings that seek to critique and potentially redefine the terms of the social, aesthetic and political commons through strategies of ‘dissensus’ – a coming together of disparate and even oppositional voices – to reconsider the established social and visual order.

Mirza and Butler will form working groups, conduct workshops, lead guided exhibition tours, screen work and present artist talks for audiences and collaborators. SAVAC and Blackwood Gallery invite you to participate in the project through the following events:

Sunday, September 16, 12 to 5pm

Starting with a tour at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (Hart House, University of Toronto), bus departs for the Blackwood Gallery and Oakville Galleries. Cost $10. (Includes admission and afternoon refreshments.) To reserve a seat, contact or 905-844-4402 ext. 27 by Friday September 14 at 4pm.

FREE Contemporary Art Bus Tour
Sunday, September 30, 12 to 5pm

Starting with a tour at Honest Ed’s with the Koffler Gallery Off-Site exhibition, bus departs for the Blackwood Gallery, Art Gallery of York University and Doris McCarthy Gallery. FREE. To reserve a seat, contact the Koffler Gallery at 416-638-1881 ext. 4249 or email by Friday, September 28 at 5pm.

Theatre of the Oppressed Workshops
Saturdays, September 8, 15, 22 & 29 from 1 to 5pm, Blackwood Gallery

Conceived of by the Brazilian director Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed uses theatre as a means of promoting social and political change. In Theatre of the Oppressed, the audience becomes “spect-actors” and the aim is to explore, show, analyse and transform the reality in which we are living.  The Theatre of the Oppressed workshops will involve local residents of Mississauga, indigenous and immigrant communities, alongside workers and students from the University.

We ask that applicants commit to being present at all four sessions; your regular participation is essential for the group to work as a whole. In addition to the weekly Saturday slots, there is also the option to work in smaller groups outside of these hours; we will be in residence at the Blackwood Gallery throughout and encourage participants to drop in and get actively involved in the project.  By the end of the four weeks, we hope that the Theatre of the Oppressed workshop might collectively present a piece of Forum Theatre within the 48 hour seminar we are organising with the Direct Speech Acts working group.

No prior experience in arts of theatre is needed, and we actively encourage people with an interest and involvement in political struggle to apply.

To attend the workshops, email Sharlene Bamboat, SAVAC’s Programming Coordinator at

Screening of ‘Deep State’
Tuesday, September 25, 7pm
Cinecycle, 129 Spadina Ave., Toronto
Presented in partnership with Pleasure Dome

*Artists will be present*

We are pleased to present the Canadian premiere of Karen Mirza & Brad Butler’s new film Deep State (45 min., 2012), scripted by science fiction author China Mieville and commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella. The film takes its title from the Turkish term ‘Derin Devlet’, meaning ‘state within the state’, and tells a story about the representation of political struggle, moments of crisis, solidarity, schisms and oppression. Archive footage slices through a science fiction inflected narrative, which is propelled by the relationships between those drawn together in the struggle against the deep state. The deep state is imaged as an amorphous, submerged totality, which makes itself present through uncanny bleeds of colour. Its opposition is a time traveling rioter who passes through holes in conventional history created by the eruptive power of riots; these grainy portals evade the panopticon-like gaze of the deep state. $8/$5 for students.

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998, and in 2004 formed, an artist-run organization. Their practice is centred upon collaboration, dialogue and the social; early works emerged from their interest in seminal avant-garde film and since 2007 they have pursued a strain of practice entitled The Museum of Non Participation, a collection of gestures, speech acts and audio-visual works which has thus far been presented in Egypt, Pakistan, Germany and the UK. They are actively involved as members of the Precarious Workers Brigade; their political alignment directly informs not only the content of their work but their collective approach to production. Mirza and Butler have recently completed a new film, entitled Deep State, in collaboration with science fiction author China Miéville. In Spring 2013 they will present a major solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

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