The House of the Unexpected A project with Karen Mirza and Brad Butler

September 12 - October 14, 2012

Curated by Haema Sivanesan

Co-presented by SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) and Blackwood Gallery

Photos by Toni Hafkenshied.
Special Events

Opening Reception:
Wednesday September 19, 5 - 9pm
Artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler and their project collaborators will be in attendance for the opening. A FREE shuttle bus will depart from the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W. Toronto) at 6pm and will return for 9pm.

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.

Public screening of Deep State
Tuesday September 25, 7 pm

CineCycle, 129 Spadina Ave (down the lane)
*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.

Doors Open
Saturday September 29, 10am - 4pm
Presented in partnership with the Culture Division, City of Mississauga

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 x4249 or email by Friday, September 28.


Join the discussion and get updates on the project:

Exhibition Statement

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 a call 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 events listed above and on our blog.

To read a PDF copy of Haema Sivanesan's curatorial essay please click here.

Artists' Biographies

Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have worked together since 1998, and in 2004 formed, an artist-run organisation. 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.

If you would like to know more about Mirza and Butler’s practice, please visit:

Installation Photos
Opening Reception

In partnership with SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) and generously supported by Technovision (Pickering, ON), UTM Student Housing and Residence Life, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council. We also would like to acknowledge the assistance of Technovision.