msdm a nomadic house-studio-gallery for photographic art and curatorial research, an expanded practice of the artist's book, photobook publishing and peer-to-peer collaboration created by contemporary artist paula roush

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sex’n’database: a corporeal taxonomy

During a residency at the Arab Image Foundation I looked at several photographic collections that, in different ways, reflect the city of Beirut and its links to both the Arab and international photo-visual culture. This initial artistic research resulted in several photobooks that were published by Beirut-based PlanBey publisher, and an accompanying exhibition at their Makan Gallery (September 2015). This installation, titled Torn Folded Curled, reflected the impact of the civil war in some of the collections that came to the Foundation already damaged - photographic materials rescued from heavily bombed sites around Beirut and Lebanon.
In contrast to this kind of dusty paper-based materiality, I also became interested in the Foundation’s online database, both the textual taxonomy and its digitised photographs. Opening myself to chance, I let myself be guided by the intention to find something sleazy or sexy - photographic material with a twist… that might be troubling the archive. I typed in the database search fields the word ‘sexuality’ and found no sexuality in the archive, but found ‘sex’, as well as ‘body’, ‘nudity’, ‘breast’, ‘leg’, ‘bedroom’… Overwhelmed by the joy of corporeal indexicality, they are already digital archaeology. They are a testimony to an out-dated bureaucratic classification system of French colonial legacy, soon to disappear under the auspices of a new open access database to be implemented at the Arab Image Foundation.

paula roush

SEX’N’DATABASE: A CORPOREAL TAXONOMY featured as comissioned photo-essay in

Membrana magazine 3
Cabinet issue
 Collecting Photographic Images

Collecting photographic images has for long stirred both interest and imagination of photographers, artists, photographic theorists, just as it did those of information loving intelligence officers, flea market loving amateurs and free market loving entrepreneurs. Contemporary proliferation of image production and sharing seems to have only intensified the practices of collecting, appropriating and curating of found, already existing images. The resulting amassments of images – either in forms of personal albums, institutionalised collections, server farms of social networks or archives of state institutions – are also amassments of narratives, of projections about societies and individuals, of attempts to limit the mere potentiality and contingency of meaning. In particular it was the archive – as a concept, a distinctive repressive social apparatus, and as a pool of (in)accessible images – that has for long been a focal point of theoretical and discursive contestations, creative artistic practices and critical appropriations. Membrana #3 reinvigorates these discussions from the perspective of ubiquitous photography and re-politicisation of social life in post-democratic societies through the metaphor of cabinet. For us, the notion of the cabinet has multiple meanings and can be seen as a bureaucratic image storage and retrieval system, an image display surface, a desktop icon or an Wunderkammer-ish collection of wonders and curiosities and can be approached literally or metaphorically.
Editor: Jan Babnik


Activating the Archive online exhibition
curated by Alejandro Acin & Isaac Blease
PH museum July 24- Sept 24 2018

Activating the Archive presents the work of 10 artists that explore and question the malleable nature of visual archives and the many ways that they can be activated through contemporary practices.
Archives hold the promise of continual exploration, however, before embarking on this quest we must first understand them as places for construction rather than sites of excavation. Perhaps this notion of potentiality is the reactive force guiding artists around the often-hampering hand of official archival procedures. Within this exhibition the work of 10 artists highlight the malleable nature of visual archives, and the many ways that they can be activated through contemporary practices.
Themes such as, preservation, restoration, and organization, are usually central to discussions around the archive, yet the works displayed here attest to the equal importance of creativity and the freedom of use. Despite sharing an archival underpinning, these works are all strongly unique, and detail the myriad of ways that this material can approach universal subjects through artistic intervention. In turn, our understandings of photographs, why they are archived, and ultimately how they can be used is further expanded.
In the Tate paper, Perspectives: Negotiating the Archive, Sue Breakell describes how “an archive is now understood to mean anything that is no longer current but that has been retained”. How and why photographic collections are retained is often based on a slippery encounter shrouded in subjectivity, which in turn further complicates our understanding of what constitutes an archive. In some cases within this exhibition, the act of retainment is orchestrated by the artist them self through acts of archival salvage from sites such as, flea markets, rubbish dumps, or simply the street.
However an archive is formed, activation is the key to new readings and new directions. All of the works encountered here are testament to this endeavour where the artists are inventing archives, performing the archive, connecting archives, creating online archives, and re-imagining personal archives.
This online exhibition is part of the current IC Visual Lab programme Activating the Archive, which has included a symposium, workshops, talks, and an upcoming artistic commission. These events have been ongoing over an eight-month period and are supported by the Arts Council of England.

curators: Alejandro Acin & Isaac Blease

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participatory architectures

The past persists in the present in the form of a dream (participatory architectures, archive and revolution) installation with photography, archive, architectural materials and newspaper, 2012-14

Outdated remains of a 20th century architectural utopia, a village developed as part of national housing projecte code-named SAAL, the experimental programme of peoples' right to place emerged in the short experience of participatory democracy during the Portuguese revolution.

exhibited in:
Paradigm Store, 5 Howick Place, London, Sept-November 2014
Seismopolite journal of Art and Politics (issue 3: Reimagining the political geography of “place” and “space”)
Arles Photography Open Salon, An Eye for an Ear, Galerie Huit, 2012
Brighton Photo Biennial 12 Photobook show at Brighton’s Jubilee Library throughout the Biennial (6 October – 4 November 2012)
Urban Dreams at the CCA, October 2012, Bulgaria
Brighton Photo Fringe, Phoenix Brighton, 6-11 November 2012
Guatephoto, Guatemala City, November 2012
This Is Not A Gateway Festival, Bishopsgate Institute, London, January 2013


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Soundtrack for a CCTV

paula roush, Soundtrack for a CCTV, Voyeur Project View Lisbon

paula roush, Soundtrack for a CCTV, Voyeur Project View, Lisbon


Neja Tomšič: Tea for Five. Opium Clippers

Neja Tomšič: Tea for Five. Opium Clippers
Performance with hand painted ceramics
msdm studio-gallery, UN8 Barratt Industrial Park, Gillender St, Poplar, London E3 3JX
Saturday, 20 October at 5 pm and 7 pm
Tickets: eventbrite

Opium Clippers is both the title of a book and that of a tea ceremony in which Neja Tomšič tells (true) stories about forgotten episodes of world history while making and drinking tea. In the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century the tea and opium trades were some of the most lucrative businesses in the world. At the time they were completely controlled by European colonial powers and corporations enjoying state protection.

Tea for Five is performed as a Chinese tea ceremony during which each visitor is served tea in an individual tea set and the history of each ship is narrated. The central part of the project are five hand painted ceramics tea sets based on traditional Chinese gongfu tea sets. Each tea set illustrates the history of a particular ship, related to opium trade, and consists of a tea cup that depicts the ship; a tea pot that depicts the historical event, and the tea pitcher (chahai) that depicts maps, individuals and events related to the ship.

Neja Tomšič (1982) is a visual artist, poet and writer involved in interdisciplinary practices. She is a co-founder of MoTA – Museum of Transitory Art – a Ljubljana-based research and production platform devoted to transitory art. She lives and works in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
msdm is the acronym for mobile strategies of display & mediation,  and is  a platform for artists sharing an interest for photographic research in exhibitions, editions and publications. The space’s tactical collaborations revolve around publishing, workshops and curatorial projects both at UN8 and abroad.

A project by Neja Tomšič
Ceramics by Anja Slapničar
Photography Jaka Babnik
Limited number of places.
Duration: 60 minutes +
Produced from 2018: Glej Theatre. Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture.

A book about a suppressed episode in world history: the tea and opium trade, from the colonial era to the present. Opium Clippers by Neja Tomšič  is  published by Rostfrei Publishing


theoretical collage

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hetero qb

Hetero q.b.: a programme of debates and video/performance works created by thirty three women from southern and eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, who tackle feminist and queer issues, at the Chiado Museum of Contemporary Art, Lisbon.

hetero q.b. [international video programme]
Curated by Emília Tavares and paula roush
With: Ana Bezelga, Ana Pérez-Quiroga, Ana Pissarra, Carla Cruz, Catarina Saraiva, Célia Domingues, Cristina Regadas, Elisabetta di Sopra, Hong Yane Wang, Itziar Okariz, Joana Bastos, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen, Maimuna Adam, Maria Kheirkhah, Maria Lusitano, Mónica de Miranda, Nilbar Güres, Nisrine Boukhari, Oreet Ashery, Patrícia Guerreiro, paula roush, Pushpamala N, Rachel Korman, Razan Akramaw, Rita GT, Roberta Lima, Sükran Moral, Susana Mendes Silva, Tejal Shah, Zanele Muholi
Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea – Museu do Chiado, Lisboa
April 9 – June 30 2013
[hetero q.b.-intro] [paula roush: In the grip of the panopticon]  [Emília Tavares: hetero q.b]  [press reviews]  [parallel events]

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Joburg Fringe


Joburg Fringe
25 October – 3 November
The Art Room No 22 - 4th Ave, Cnr 7th St, Parkhurst, Johannesburg
with: Andrew Lindsay / Americo Guambe / Amogelang Maepa / Ann Marie Tully / Brett Seiler / Chiedza Nyebera Pfister / Claudia Shneider / Daniel Novela / Emmanuel de Montbron / James Nilsen-Misra / Jessica Doucha / Kaelik Dullaart / Kutlwano Monyai / Marlene Carpenter / Mbali Tshabalala/ Miabo Enyadike / Michelle Loukidis / Mireille Ribière / Naledi Segale / Ngozi Chukura / paula roush / Phumelele Kunene / Wonder / VIDEOart! 2018 curated by Jackie Ruth Murray / Young Capital 201 curated by Thina Dube


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brunch at UN8

Brunch at UN8 for the london residency of
Pau Cata (Barcelona) and Helga Oskardottir (Reykjavik)
Sunday June 17th 2018
ith the contributions of :





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page turner #2: LISBON PHOTOBOOK FAIR 2016

PAGETURNER #2 PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: María Alves,  Ana Alvim,  Ana Fonseca,  Silvia Goncalves,   Fernando Marante,  Luisa Neves,  Anik Polo,  Luís Santo Vaz,   Francisco Varela,  Pelayo Iglesias; led by paula roush, 24- 27 November 2016  7th lisbon photobook fair: arquivo municipal de lisboa







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photo-text index (extract)

In 2007 I dragged my family to Sweden    We were all tired of our country that (it was said) was afraid of existing
writes Maria in the beginning paragraph of her essay   about her move from Portugal to Sweden

But the journey portrayed here happens four years later when I accompany her in a farewell journey between Malmö and Stockholm before she moved with her family this time from Sweden to the UK

A travelogue   a photo-text in search of its ontology                                   a book that essays photographs and writing into the double-vision of the migrants’ eyes         (annunciated by Bhabha) hers and mine

A twofold vision so as to twice the number of doubles produced on paper folds causing creases to appear temporarily in the folders of memory

Where does the journey start?

With portraits of the dead   photo-traces of transnational migration  found in Malmö’s Urban Cemetery  across the road from her home in Söder Innerstad housing programme for                    the newly arrived migrants

Suitcases hand-luggage passport control check points inter-continental flights

trajectories of dispersal      the splitting up of a people leaving in different directions   to meet later on in foreign soil

  for another expedition

Nothing to undo- self-contradictory error message on the screen  caused by accidentally activating the ‘shake to undo’ feature in the iPad  something is required to do: to tap the ‘cancel’ button to close it                                             Nothing to undo: the paradoxical nature of their collaboration that left much to images and words to collide                                    Nothing - not anything; no single thing: no amount; zero                                          To - a sense of movement, how we travel to, have gone to and relate to one another             Undo - untie, loosen, cancel, reverse

An ambiguity between agency and passivity  acceptance of contingency and chance      The absence of necessity the fact of being so without having to be so    Both in life and in the essay   There’s nothing one can undo no ‘one single home’ to return to                but scattered locations  multiple homes /pages to go to

A trip but not the mythical American road trip closer to the one intended by Berenice Abbott and Elizabeth McCausland   when in 1935 they hit the road in their practice run for the photobook  America. The 48 States They hoped to produce

Not a picture book  not a treatise or a burst of splendid rhetoric with illustrations not a series of beautifully reproduced plates with tabloid captions and tricks of montage but a book with words and photographs marching along beside each other complimenting each other reinforcing each other… 

It could be the great democratic book the great book for the masses of people conditioned by reading newspapers and tabloids…

In their daily drifts into Ribersborg beach and Vestra Hamnen (western harbour), former industrial area converted into the City of Tomorrow, they passed by the Rotating Torso tower and the Facelift Centre obvious symbols of the new prosthetic architecture of artificially enhanced corporeality

They never asked themselves: Why are we here? Will we ever go back?

Two women on the road  self-consciously documenting their situated dis-embodied geographies

paula roush: excerpt from photo-text index, Nothing to Undo 2015

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SCHIST PAINTBALL FIELD: Time that has already been time

Time that has already been time - a preamble in two chapters

The uses of time are definitely a challenge for artists. One may approach time by excavating it in an archaeological way, thinking in terms of historiography , which is not to accept the parameters of the official history with its definite causal time. Rather, questioning the historical perspective, this is part of the artistic task.

I do very different artworks in terms of medium but the work is usually located in the public sphere and driven by themes of artistic research. Sometimes I publish books, work with archives and photography, other times I make movies, and when I'm not doing either, I accept commissions for so-called performative installations that involve longer processes of collaboration with groups of participants. Time and memory are very dear themes to me. This has to do, first, with my use of time in terms of my artistic production - the time taken to investigate and make a work of art. Moreover, it results from my line of research that follows a historical orientation about the memory of the place , and the question of memory and gender in a feminist and queer perspective.

The subtitle used here 'Time that has already been time' is inspired by the ethno-sociological study by Paulo Monteiro on the villages of Lousã titled 'Land that has already been land'(1985). This is because the last of my projects, Xistórias, was developed in the villages of Lousã Mountain in central Portugal. It was a proposal for an artistic intervention in an area with a very troubled history - the product of a series of very problematic state and regional initiatives that resulted in the abandonment of the mountain by the inhabitants of their villages. Interesting to think that artists are now included in the current wave of investment that aims to transform rurality into touristic and cultural capital. In this context, it was a challenge to think of participatory methodologies to engage people on the ground and in the final event that was a four hour journey/walk across four villages with fifty people who came from Coimbra, Lisbon and Góis to participate.

In terms of artistic time, public commissions are a slow process. Xistórias was for me a research process of a few months that began with a first visit to the villages in August, when I went to see the area. I photographed and did some video too, and when I returned I created two small books that represented for me a kind of initial mental map of the project,ie, a preamble in two chapters.

The book SCHIST | XISTO is a document on the memory of the place . The villages are now almost completely abandoned as a result of a forestry regime that in the first decades of the twentieth century planted community land with pines and eucalyptus. This came to destabilize the delicate rural balance between trees, bushes, pastures, crops and livestock based on collective practices of land use. It led to the extinction of natural resources crucial for survival, that culminated in successive waves of migration to the cities and abroad and its depopulation. Although our framework is that of a very extended time, that has to do with rock formations and mountains and a very wide geological time, the schist villages are a brand that has now been launched for the region. It is manufacture of the place but does not necessarily have to do with local history or local time. Today the mountain is being promoted as a brand, “the schist landscape” in an attempt to attract the tourist gaze that is also a form of exoticism. This is an external time that is being deployed there and this juxtaposition has become my entry point into that space. The houses that are being rehabilitated persist alongside the ruins, the new rural urbanity alongside local life, coexisting in a state of entropy, between growth and decay. And I wanted to capture that process.

The book PAINTBALL FIELD | PAINTBALL FIELD depicts an uncanny , defamiliarised scenario, staged in a paintball field that I found in the Góis village, located in the base of the mountain, and part of the same touristic process behind the promotion of schist villages. This is a battle scenario where a surreal creature with a cork mask – the same as used in the villages during carnival- seems to be hunted by the other players. These are families who come with their children to enjoy themselves whilst training in the use of "ink weapons," since these are not exactly firearms. Without wanting to determine the reading, it seems to me possible to suggest that the performance of the masquerade seems to ironise the war game and expose the glorification of death implicit in the narrative of the paintball game. What I did was to edit this book in a time split to suggest another way to think of time in globalisation. What we have here are two times: the time of the mountain villages, that we associate with a time-less-present, perhaps a time-more-past, and the time of the the paintball field, that we associate with technological "edge," and perhaps a more-future-time . The presence of the mask shifts the time of the book to a more ethnographic time associated with the primitive and the ‘raw’ cultural condition, with all the connotations of appropriation and mystification of the so called “peasants’culture” that has resulted in its colonisation.

These were just some preliminary works as said. Later, in November, I went to the mountains and there I stayed three weeks in the tourists’ house in the Comareira village, that is managed by the Góis Council and is rented to tourists at sixty euros per night. A simple economic fact. It has central heating and where is now a space branded "schist" for travelers, once lived a family of sixteen persons. Another simple ethnograph fact, that concludes this introduction .

Excerpt from the presentation of the project to the Feminist University, during the seminar The Uses of Time, Lisbon December 18, 2013.


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