Museum of Non-Participation
Hold Your Ground
Canary Wharf London
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  • Hold Your Ground is a companion piece to a larger film work by Karen Mirza & Brad Butler, scripted in conjunction with the author China Mieville. Inspired by the events of the Arab Spring, and triggered by the artists discovery in Cairo of a pamphlet of instructions for pro-democracy demonstrators, called How to Protest Intelligently, the piece dissects the semantics of the crowd, and the resulting performative speech act. Conceived for the site at Canary Wharf, this work calls forth the struggle to turn fugitive sounds into speech, addressing an audience predominantly in transit.

    Hold Your Ground is commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella.

  • Culture 24 : Artist's statement: In their own words...Brad Butler talks about his collaboration with Karen Mirza for the site specific commission Hold Your Ground. This film, based on an Egyptian pro-democracy pamphlet, will be shown at Canary Wharf Screen...

    The pamphlet is in Arabic and it is called How to Protest Intelligently. It came out very early in the revolution in Egypt. Its a series of ideas or tools for people attempting to resist the state.
    Its quite specific, including what you should wear in a protest, where you should meet, and what you could say, who to speak to. Its advice for the citizen. One character in the pamphlet is a rioter whos fighting a policeman and underneath theres a slogan, which says, Hold your ground. Hes spraying paint towards the policeman, and it makes you think: what do you have around you as potential tools which can be used to attempt to draw a line with when youve had enough of retreating?

    Our Canary Wharf film has no interviews. It has some archive footage from Northern Ireland, from UK demonstrations, from Egypt and a few other places. But mostly what it has is a character who is both attempting to teach and attempting to speak a protest language. In fact, she only says four actual words, so a lot of her actions are about attempting to construct language. The reason this is relevant to Canary Wharf is because in particular we were alarmed by the indefinite political injunction taken out by the Canary Wharf Group during the occupation of St Pauls, stopping any gathering or form of protest in Canary Wharf.

  • So our protagonist is calling to the workers in transit to think about their relationship to speaking out, to think about where they place their body, to find new gestures of protest, to address their frustrations in finding the freedom to speak out about issues, to find connections.

    Hold Your Ground was something that comes out of a larger film we are currently making called Deep State. The Deep State is the state within the state, so its an unelected power-base, which operates on us as people, but also from inside the state on the state itself, the term comes out of Turkey where they call it Derin Devlet. At one end it falls into conspiracy theory and in that way it can be easily dismissed, but in other ways it is very clear in things like rendition, in the banking crisis, in corporate forces that influence Governmental policy.

    For example, the Neo Conservatives in America were particularly clear about not giving a fuck about showing there was a Deep State. Often these things are mostly hidden away, but in their case the way they dealt with Iraq was very Deep State, including their use of privatised military forces, their blatant embezzlement of Iraqi resources and [US diplomat] Paul Bremer's laws that set about dismantling of the Iraqi State to create a free market suitable to US interests. So for more than a year we had been creating an archive of ideas around civil disobedience and the difficulties of speaking out - what is said, and unsaid, and the relationship with pressures on the body.

    We filmed a lot in Cairo as well as in the student and union protests in the UK, and we then suggested to Film and Video Umbrella that we take this archive to the writer China Mieville. China writes social/science fiction, sometimes known as weird fiction. And also hes one of the founders of salvage punk. So we went in with the idea of a collaboration through our archive, and through our discussions with China we immediately crossed over with this idea of the Deep State. We had just been to Turkey at the point of starting our discussions and everything just aligned.