the Museum of Non Participation

The Museum of Non Participation’s performance of Bertolt Brecht’s The Exception and the Rule, 1929. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, April 18, 2013. From left: Susy Bielak, David Kim, Rigoberto Lara Guzmán, Karen Mirza, Alejandra Tobar, and Aaron Rosenblum. Photo: Olga Ivanova.

IT’S APRIL 19, four days after the Boston Marathon bombings, and I’m on my way from the Minneapolis airport to my hotel. As the radio broadcasts news of the search for the Tsarnaev brothers, my taxi driver comments on the ironies of the phrase criminal justice. I’m in Minneapolis to attend the opening of the Museum of Non Participation’s exhibition at the Walker Art Center, “The New Deal,” which focuses on questions of political speech, the grammar of rights, and discourses of protest.

Created by London-based artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler in 2007, when the two were living in Pakistan, the Museum is a peripatetic series of workshops, presentations, installations, and collectively devised performances. Its origin story is fable-like: Visiting the National Art Gallery in Islamabad one day, Mirza and Butler found themselves trapped inside by a melee just beyond the institution’s

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