The Unreliable Narrator – Campagne Première

Campagne Première is pleased to present Karen Mirza and Brad Butler’s first German solo show, The Unreliable Narrator, opening 2 May 2015 from 11am–6pm.

Part of the London-based artists’ cornerstone project The Museum of Non Participation, the body of work The Unreliable Narrator is an examination of power, privilege and violence spanning three new installation and video works. Together these works explore the dangers of passively consuming the torrent of pervasive mass-media narratives and entice spectators to question the ability to find a “truth” in the context of war when framed and filtered through media images.

“What happens when a frame breaks with itself is that a taken-for-granted reality is called into question, exposing the orchestrating designs of the authority who sought to control the frame” – Judith Butler (Frames of War). A neon sign, You are the Prime Minister (2014), hangs forebodingly over a role of school desks. Atop each is the first page of an entrance exam to England’s elite Eton College, an institution that has famously educated 19 of Britain’s Prime Ministers. Based on an excerpt of a 2011 exam, the would-be prospective candidates are tasked with a singular request: to picture themselves as heads of state in 2040 in order to write a speech justifying “necessary” and “moral” use of military force against civilian protesters.

Behind a curtain that bisects the gallery in two, The Unreliable Narrator (2014) recounts the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks on two screens, alternately from the position of the terrorist and that of a seemingly impartial commentator. The video—sourced from CCTV footage, reenactments from a 2013 Bollywood movie, and audio of the intercepted phone calls between the young gunmen and their controllers in Pakistan whom carried out the attack while on their Blackberries—suggests an attack performed for and enabled by the media for the benefit of news cameras. “This is just a trailer, the main feature is yet to come” assures a boastful voice of a controller.

Stories alternate between rhetoric, construction and reality in a language employed equally by the Perpetrators and State that itself appears to create and propagate conditions of authority, violence and division. Mirza and Butler force a reconsideration of this mandate and entice us to lean on the credibility of a narrator. How can you tell the truth? How can you tell the truth? Opposite the installation, Act(s) (2014), a blackboard foretells a credo to an unpredictable and unexpected revolution; one that “will come like a flood in the night […] in a language we won‘t understand because we never listened before.”

The ongoing body of work The Museum of Non Participation launched in September 2008 in Karachi and October 2009 in London. The collection of exhibitions and performances seeks to open up for questioning and challenging current conditions of political engagement and resistance. Recent solo presentations of the duo‘s work include Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2013); and The Guest of Citation at Performa 13, New York (2013). Mirza and Butler have exhibited internationally, including at FACT, Liverpool; Centro de Arte Dos De Mayo, Madrid; Savvy Contemporary, Berlin; Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart; Hayward Gallery, London; MuseumsQuartier, Vienna; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, and Serpentine Gallery, London. They were shortlisted for Artes Mundi 6, an international art prize recognising artistic practices that engage with the human condition, accompanied by an exhibition in Cardiff, Wales, in November 2014. The artists live and work in London.

Campagne Première – Chausseestrasse 116, Berlin
2 May – 27 June 2015