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

~REFLECTIONS~ are a collection of texts by  artists, scholars and experts in the field of artists’ publishing,
photography and curating,  including excerpts from past msdm exhibition publications and catalogs. 





Photobook: Work Week Workshop
A conversation about photobook publishing with Beate Cegielska, Galleri Image and paula roush, msdm studio by Ane Bonde Rolsted for KATALOG Journal of Photography
& Video 32.1 [read Article]

DOMENEST: collab Natercia Caneira msdm House—Studio—Gallery

Art Nomadism
Martina Poiana reflects on msdm nomadic project space.
In conversation with artist and photographer paula roush. [read Article]


The Expanded Practice of the Artist’s Book: Immersion in The Artist’s Museum
 Francisco Varela reflects on Blackchapel  and msdm House-Studio-Gallery [read Essay]

De/Territorialized Practices
Oreet Ashery reflects on
The Public Art of Campaigning


Published in Living in the Material World, Coventry University. ISBN 0905949846 2000  


MDSM primary ethic, I would suggest, is collaboration with other people: ' ... (this project is )... an extended research into the collaborative practices available to us. Within our experience, we acknowledge this can include our engagement in art making activities, eating or cooking a meal. That is, not only the things we do together, but the results of collaborative effort which we can take advantage of... it is drawing on this network that we integrate into a social structure to gain an understanding of how it functions, and in turn locate and speculate on our possible function within it.' More specifically, MDSM have been critically looking at issues of gentrification and regeneration in the city, and in particular, what consultation around public art projects might consist of.

A recent project MDSM developed was connected to Monecriff Place in Peckham, a contested space. The street currently has market stalls for as long as 20 years. The plans for public art project in the street, involve a large screen outside the Premier cinema and leading to it an 'International Carpet of Flowers', consist of a stretch of flowers from all over the world lit with underground lighting. This stretch would mean that the market traders would have to move. The market traders started a campaign against the plans. Emma and paula spoke to the traders, the council and the artists involved, the various arguments materialised on a video called 'The Public Art of Campaigning' and was shown to the market traders and also in a number of public events. The immediate outcome of this intervention put a hold on the plans. These particular plans are part of a larger program of regeneration which has been taking place in Peckham for a while now and resulted in the loss of small business, mainly black, in favour of chain stores and multi-nationals.


Found  Photo Foundation

Found Photo Foundation newspaper
Found Photo Foundation experimental archive

Space for thinking between the images: on the genesis
of the 'photographic collection' as an artistic genre.
Ludwig Seyfarth reflects on the Found Photo Foundation 

In Dear Aby Warburg, what can be done with images? Dealing with Photographic
Material Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen


The question 'What is to be done with images?' is also a question about the relationship between the archive and the presentation- the atlas, the tableau, the display. Does the archive in question represent a limited body of material, for example, the glass negatives exposed in a photo studio during the 1930s and 1940s and purchased by Cecile Hummel from a street vendor in southern Italy, or the images that paula roush gathered at portuguese flea markets and garage sales to archive in her Found Photo Foundation?

It is usually impossible to trace the provenance of these photographs which roush refers to as 'orphans'. They have become homeless, but nonetheless tell something like a private subterranean history of the time spent under a dictatorship.

Or do the images derive from a variety of sources, without being founded upon a coherent archive, as int he case of Ozlem Altin's investigation of formal correspondences between depictions of the body in motion. Are the images stolen away, so to speak, out of their original context or are their sources carefully documented, as i the case of Katrin Mayer, who also repeatedly juxtaposes them with passages of text that interest her - resulting in the creation of a new context for both image and text?

Regardless of all the differences in terms of the technique and the potential sources of the images, the art of the 'photographic collection' can be summarily described as a sort of game of Memory. When playing the normal version of Memory, it is the still hidden cards whose pictures cannot be seen. But let us assume that Memory were to consist of thousands of cards, most of which are not even on the table and some of which may even have been lost. Ultimately, Warburg was already playing this game, as Didi-Huberman at least optically establishes in the case of the Mnemosyne Atlas:"The images of an ensemble photographed on a single plane are suggestive of a card game spread out on a table.'

The artists of the exhibition Dear Aby Warburg are collectors of images; their artistic individuality consists less in a style or gesture than in the specific manner in which they...also physically open up new spaces for thinking between the images- something begun with Warburg when he started to pin photos to canvasses.

Eva Schmidt reflects on
in the Introduction to the monograph
"Dear Aby Warburg..."

In Dear Aby Warburg, what can be done with images? Dealing with Photographic Material. 
Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen]

How can photographic images thought lost – due to a lack of place or name- be re-found and made to speak to us again? The significance of a photographic image does not lie in the image itself; the decisive aspects are its context and actualisation as material object. Every work in the exhibition makes this obvious. Although all the works named implicitly formulate the part of the viewer, the ‘user’ through their openness and temporary nature, in paula roush’s work strategies of participation are foregounded. She tracks down photos that have become homeless. roush calls them ‘orphans’ which can be found at flea markets or in junk shops. She invites others to ‘adopt’ these ‘orphans’ in their own configurations.

Tanja Verlak reflects on  
In "An attempt at exhausting an archive/
Found Photo Foundationfor" 

Dear Aby Warburg: What Can Be Done With Images?


The Found Photo Foundation/FPF, under the patronage of paula roush, deals with visuals suitably named ‘orphan photographs’ and explores this very possibility of walking the line between temporal and spatial domains, where the empirical and the surreal grow surprisingly close. The FPF can also be read as an artistic experiment of twisting the document value of an archive beyond its proverbial linearity of causes and consequences.

As the connection to the real is often lost, the project is above all a platform of invented spaces that suggests taxonomical methods of artistic research deep into generations and the unknown.

Hala Tawil reflects on
paula roush residency
with The Arab Image Foundation

Notes on the residency of paula roush

Artist and lecturer paula roush was born in Lisbon and lives and works in London. roush teaches both art theory and practice at the London South Bank University and the University of Westminster. She operates in the fields of installation and publishing, where her work is positioned in relation to ongoing developments in photography, particularly the dialogue between analog and digital. These concerns emerge in the interplay among photo collections combining found, orphan and DSLR-produced photographs, where they constitute a critical, socio-political and aesthetic investigation of memory. She aims to bridge the gap between biography, the everyday and the archive.

Between June 22nd and July 3rd 2015, roush was welcomed as an artist-in-residence at the Arab Image Foundation. She was granted access to all the Foundation’s facilities with the intention of creating works informed by her readings of the photographic collections and her practice as an artist working with found photographs in both print and installations. roush’s residency in Beirut was made possible by The Centre for Media and Culture Research, London South Bank University.

Using materials present at the Foundation, roush’s method enforced limits and guided her process. It is ultimately reflected in her work’s aesthetics, layout, materiality, format and the juxtaposition of text and image. She describes her methodology as working through fragments collected in a limited time-frame. Stepping back and distancing herself from her projects, roush ultimately returns for further investigation and reflection after an allocated time has passed. The works roush produced fed off conversations, chance encounters and coincidences occurring within the space of the Foundation. She allowed her presence to guide the production process as it further structured and shaped the resulting works.

Points of interest
Portuguese presence

- roush approached the Foundation with what she described as a safety net: an ongoing interest in traces of the Portuguese presence in the collections of the Arab Image Foundation. This dovetails with her previous works and ongoing research on the subject.

- She was able to identify 10 relevant images on the in-house database and requested to view them in their physical format.

The Database
- roush re-visited the AIF in-house database in light of the content of the binder: images evoking sexuality, relationships, and the female figure, as well as a text by Dore Bowen: The Bridge Called Imagination: On reading the Arab Image Foundation and Its Collection.

- Intrigued by the format and the interface of the database itself, paula even noted its malfunctioning “glitches and crashes”.

- roush also collaborated with a Collection Management volunteer whose duty was inputting keywords.

- The volunteer attributed keywords to the otherwise unprocessed images in the EPS binder as roush recorded the suggestions. The process began systematically, although it developed into free-association as the volunteer “began drifting into the images and thinking out loud”.

“Questionable” content: EPS Collection
- Another point of interest for roush was “questionable” photographic content, what could be described as “sleazy, sexy, seedy and inappropriate”.

- She was directed to the contact prints of the EPS collection, assembled in two binders for consultation in the AIF public space.

- Due to the depiction of various intimate scenes and the inclusion of nude photographs in the collection, concerns arose regarding privacy of the photographer, and the subjects in the photographs.

- It should be noted that the collection has not been scanned, and the identities of those appearing the photographs remain undocumented.

- paula roush managed to meet EPS, interviewing him about the context of production of the images

The Photograph as sculpture/object/image
- Upon viewing the initial images with keywords linking them to Portugal, roush became intrigued by the process of setting up and staging images for photographic documentation.

- roush then delved into the Al-Yom, collection of the personal research of the editor in chief of the national newspaper, influenced by the year 1975 (on 25 April 1974 which overthrew the regime of the Estado Novo.

- roush paired 85 photographs she had taken of objects from the Al Yom collection to sections of text from a book given to her by Sabbag on Beirut - A L'Ombre d'Une Ville (1993)

- roush also photographed the unprocessed collection of Bayroumi, a Studio Photographer from Saida, Lebanon who worked in the seventies.

- Not removed from their plastic encasings paralleled themes of privacy.


Overview on her practice as an artist working with photographic collections, most specifically the Found Photo Foundation
Discussing the method of accessing material at the Foundation: the EPS binder.
Displaying photobook “dummies”

Through roush’s work we understand the process of researching a photographic collection as a subtle negotiation of understandings. It is seen as the practice of acquiring and documenting photographs, the dialogue between digital and analog formats, the controlled environment of preservation, as well as conversations, accidents, and mere chance encounters within the space housing the collection.

Marwan El Tibi reflects on
the exhibition Torn Curled Folded 
in "paula roush fait revivre
les archives du journal Al-Yom"

for the Alayam Magazine

[original french version]

C’est un travail de précision, que l’artiste photographe paula roush a accompli avec Antoine Sfeir de Plan Bey et la Fondation Arabe pour l’Image afin de nous présenter “Torn, Folded, Curled”, l’exposition qui s’est déroulée du 23 au 26 Septembre 2015 au Makan à Beyrouth.

Petite histoire de photos irrécupérables…

«Torn, Folded, Curled» est le statut donné aux photos irrécupérables. Celles que l’on ne peut ni restaurer ni scanner. Le seul moyen de les conserver est de les photographier, comme l’explique Paula Roush, artiste photographe, chercheuse et enseignante à la London South Bank University.
C’est par un véritable hasard que Paula a eu l’occasion de travailler sur une infime partie des photos des archives du Journal Al-Yom, abandonnées après un long périple à travers l’histoire de la guerre civile au Liban.  Pour ces photos, issues des archives impeccablement tenues par la maison Al-Yom fondée en 1937 par Afif El Tibi, rien ne laissait présager le premier traumatisme subi lorsque les locaux du journal Al-Yom sont dynamités en 1975. Celles qui ont pu être sauvées se retrouvent stockées dans un appartement de Beyrouth Ouest qui aura lui aussi son lot de misères lorsqu’en 1989, au cours de la guerre de « Libération », un obus incendiaire vint violement disperser leurs rangs.

A chaque coup du destin, leur nombre diminuait, on ne comptait plus les pertes…Torn, Folded, Curled…  les archives personnelles et celles du journal se mélangeaient, d’autres albums de famille venaient se joindre au lot. Au final, c’est un amas de vielles photos jaunies et jugées bonnes pour la poubelle, laissées pour compte après un énième déménagement, qui attirent l’attention de la Directrice de la Fondation Arabe pour l’Image avec laquelle collabore paula roush. Cette fois le destin était du bon côté, il leur a donné l’occasion de se révéler, d’attirer la curiosité à nouveau et de s’exhiber en plein jour. Elles appartiennent désormais au Patrimoine…quel honneur ! Antoine Sfeir de Plan Bey et Paula Roush ont publié une sélection de ces photos couplées à des phrases du livre de Elie-Pierre Sabbag « L’ombre d’une ville », imprimées sur papier Favini Le Cirque 80g. Un charmant ouvrage de mémoire à conserver.

Une nouvelle fois mises à l’abri dans les locaux du magazine Al-Ayam, les autres photos attendent, pleines d’espoir, des jours meilleurs qui leur permettront elles aussi de raconter leur histoire…une fois de plus. Une autre histoire, désormais liée à celle des archives du journal Al-Yom, fut également révélée par l’exposition au Makan à travers des photographies non développées ayant appartenu au banquier Elie-Pierre Sabbag. Les images qui en sortent, dont des femmes nues paraissant très à l’aise devant l’objectif, montrent le Beyrouth des années 50-60. Elles étonnent, amusent ou choquent, c’est selon. Elles font surtout leur travail, celui de conserver pour toujours une preuve que la société libanaise a su, autrefois, être heureuse. 

(English translation]
It is a work of precision, the artist photographer paula roush accomplished with Antoine Sfeir of Plan BEY and the Arab Image Foundation to present us "Torn, Folded, Curled", the exhibition which was held from September 23 to 26, 2015 at Makan in Beirut.

A short history of unrecoverable photos ...

"Torn, Folded, Curled" is the status given to unrecoverable pictures. Those which can neither restore or scan. The only way to keep them is to photograph, explains paula roush, photographer artist, researcher and teacher at the London South Bank University.
It was by pure chance that Paula had the opportunity to work on a small part of the photo archives of the Journal Al-Yom, abandoned after a long journey through the history of the civil war in Lebanon. For these photos, from archives impeccably kept by Al-Yom house founded in 1937 by Afif El Tibi, there was no indication the first trauma when the site of  the Al-Yom newspaper was dynamited in 1975. Those who were saved found themselves stored in a West Beirut apartment, who also had its share of misery when in 1989 during the war of "liberation", an incendiary shell came violently to disperse their ranks.
At each stroke of fate, their number decreased, and the losses ceased being counted... Torn, Folded, Curled ... personal archives and those of the newspaper were mixed, other family albums were joined to the batch. In the end, it's a pile of yellowed old photos and judged to no good but to throw in the garbage, left behind after yet another move, which attracted the attention of the then Director of the Arab Image Foundation, which collaborated with paula roush. This time fate was on the good side, it gave them the opportunity to reveal themselves, to attract curiosity again and show off in daylight. They now belong to the Heritage ... what an honor!
Antoine Sfeir Plan Bey and paula roush released a selection of these photos coupled with phrases from Elie Pierre Sabbag's book "The shadow of a city", printed on paper Favini Le Cirque 80g. A lovely memory book to keep. Once again put to the shelter in the premises of Al-Ayam magazine, other photos are waiting, full of hope for better days that they also allow them to tell their story ... again. Another story, now linked to the archives of the newspaper Al-Yom, was also revealed by the exhibition at Makan through undeveloped photographs which belonged to banker RS. The images that come out of the never before developed films, amongst which naked women appear very comfortable on camera, show the Beirut of the years 50-60. They amaze, amuse or shock, depending. They especially do their work, that of preserving forever a proof that Lebanese society  knew, some time ago, how to be happy.

Meg Beaumont reflects on 
nothing to undo 

for Kaleid sunday readings

“There were no ‘on the road’ shots. We flew from Malmo to Stockholm and back. We were not travelling in our ancestors’ land. We were migrants living away from our home countries, travelling in a foreign land.” And thus begins paula roush’s photo-essay nothing to undo – a simple concept that belies the complexities of an art practice driven by research.

In part, nothing to undo is inspired by an American counterpart that happened – or almost happened – in the mid 1930s. Berenice Abbott and Elizabeth McCausland hoped to secure funding 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…” This they wrote as part of their book proposal  – one that never got funded, but could easily describe paula’s work – that of a photo textual essay, produced in collaboration. Why, might one ask, is a relatively obscure and ultimately unfunded photobook one of the driving forces behind paula’s contemporary work? “If Abbott and McCausland remain a vital reference to me in the photographic and photobook road-trip, it is because they provide a counter- space to the hegemonic and patriarchal mythology of the pursuit of male self through the road.”

The book cover’s undulating image of seaweed washed-up along Malmo’s harbour leads the reader through a meandering and self-directed path. “The reader has the option of turning the pages to move back and forth, approaching the narrative’s timeline from different angles and directions. In its materiality, in the folding and unfolding, the book places the reader in a multi-view point, presenting an alternative perspective to the historically singular ‘national gaze’.”

“I am increasingly convinced that the photobook is less and less about traditional conventions of photography and more and more about the materiality acquired by photography when it crosses the threshold of the book with its micro-politics of reproducibility, affordability and portability.”

As well as being a book about photography, and memory, and migration, nothing to undo is also a book about photobooks and artists’ books and the divides and similarities between them. paula teaches a photobook module at the London South Bank University every year and nothing to undo is in part a project that is born of her experimentation in the medium of bookbinding – what appears to be an organically bound and ordered form has in fact been meticulously planned and developed, helped along with students’ feedback during the twelve weeks of the module.

One of the core themes in nothing to undo is of migrants and the act of migration – more prescient now after 2015’s harrowing refugee crisis, still ongoing and escalating. “There is a very intimate moment in the book, intimate in the way the reader is invited to handle the page and the fold, and that can be felt as a direct reference to the refugee crisis in Europe this summer that you mention: it is an insert of an image of migrants on a boat and this small fragment is placed over an image of Malmo’s harbour, in a way that it can be flipped through.  It is an archive image of Estonian Swedes fleeing Soviet occupation of Estonia for Sweden. It appealed to me for its similarity to recent photos of Syrian migrants arriving in boats to the Greek coast, whilst referencing historical shifts in perspectives on who is seeking refuge and who is the host country.”

“The book is indeed a reflection on the process of migration, the present moment of two migrants travelling in a foreign country and the shift between two forms of essaying: the textual and the photographic and my attempt to reconcile these two languages, the written and the visual in the genre of the photo-essay. It is a book about distance, the condition of being far off, remote, and the visual structure of the book is made of distances: the space between countries, historical times, people, the photo and the text and the photographic fragments themselves; However, when you’re in the book and you’re reading it, it doesn’t really appear to be about migration, it may appear to be about documentation, or about memory, and that is what a photobook does best: it invites the reader to connect with broader ideas pretty quickly, visually, instead of staying with a closed perspective of the concept and research.”

Maria Jose Prada Rodriguez reflects
on Nothing to undo 
In "El libro en abismo. Relaciones y
transferencias entre imagen
y dispositivo en el libro de artista"  

Doctoral thesis. Programa de Doctorado en Arte Contemporaneo,
Creacion e Investigacion Facultad de Bellas Artes,  Universidad de Vigo.

In the artist's book, support and content work reciprocally, there cannot be one without the other..., and there are artists and publishers who propose, for the photobook, to consider  everything that surrounds the photographs, “starting with the book form, with its traditionally recognizable features — codex, double page, textual  and paratextual elements (index, colophon, table of contents, etc.) - they all work together to support an expanded approach to photographic art. ” (paula roush in the  documents for the workshop PAge-Turner: photobookwork: photography, the book and self-publishing, which she leads during Lisbon’s Photobook Fair.)
In  Nothing to undo (Kaleid, 2015) paula roush investigates the ontology of the artist's photobook: an 'emerging object' at the intersection of the  artist's book (affordable, self-published work with the artist in full control of conceptual and editorial strategies) and the photobook (with its immersive exploration of printed photography in the space of the book).

Jan Baetens reflects on 
Bus Spotting + A Story  
for the Culture Studies Leuven blog

A Book, An Endless Love Affair

BUS SPOTTING + A STORY, a collaborative work by paula roush (images) and Mireille Ribière (text) is a work to fall in love with. It is also the perfect example of what Borges called a book of sand – that is, a work that is apparently simple but actually infinite, since each time one reopens the book, it proves to have lost the pages one already knew while surprising the reader with new pages that she had never seen before (Borges’s book of sand is of course the symbol of what great literature should be and what it can do with a reader, but this is another discussion).

Dedicated to ‘transport enthusiasts’ and short-listed for the Photo-Text Award at Les Rencontres de la photographie Arles, the world’s most famous photo festival, BUS SPOTTING + A STORY is generically defined by the authors as a ‘photo-essay’. This term, however, is slightly misleading (but don’t worry: after all this is a book of sand!), for it does not draw attention to another dimension: BUS SPOTTING + A STORYis also an artist book, that is ‘a limited hand-made book, which is usually exhibited and, with a lot of luck, purchased by a museum or a collector (which basically covers the costs of production)’. Roush and Ribière’s work is a superb example of craftsmanship and invention and demonstrates that a book is not only what can be found between two covers. BUS SPOTTING + A STORY has no cover in the traditional sense of the word, it is more a collection of various items of various forms, content and sizes, whose profound unity is the world of bus-spotting (of course the book includes a discussion on why the term of bus-spotting is not appropriated to characterize the love of transport). As a book object, BUS SPOTTING + A STORY is deeply linked with the rediscovery of the sculptural dimension of texts and pictures, which are not only 2D objects, but also 3D objects. There is more than a hidden relationship between BUS SPOTTING + A STORY and Chris Ware’s Building Stories (Pantheon, 2013), which is equally fascinated with the idea of the book as ‘container’ of many different objects and treasures.

At the same time, BUS SPOTTING + A STORY is a very personal and creative appropriation of a vital strand in modern photography and writing, namely found footage, more precisely: found photographs. However, since these pictures happen to contain a dizzying variety of words and inscriptions, found photographs are also found texts (it is, of course, not a coincidence that Mireille Ribière is not only writer but also photographer and that Paula Roush similarly combines word and image in her various assignments). BUS SPOTTING + A STORY is based upon found images of double and single-decker buses, mainly from the fifties and the sixties, which are arranged in such a way that the new sequences – for there is of course more than just one rearrangement – suggest not only a bus ride through time and space (reading the book becomes a kind of armchair bus-spotting) but prove capable of generating a fictional thread, logically linked with the passionate love the original photographers experienced with the subject of their images. The fiction that appears as a kind of watermark through the pictures and that is elaborated in one of the parts of BUS SPOTTING + A STORY is not surprisingly indebted to the world of melodrama, romance and photo novel. Text and image fit so well that one no longer knows whether the latter has inspired the former, or vice versa.

Roush and Ribière have composed a work of endless fascination and of great visual and textual beauty. Moreover BUS SPOTTING + A STORY is an intriguing case of blurring the boundaries between two auras: that of the unique and individual work of art (the book is not part of the trade publishing industry) and that of daily life, to which the authors pay a deeply felt tribute, which calls to mind, among many other things, Georges Perec’s praise of the infra-ordinary – one more thread to follow in this eye-opening creation.


Queer Paper Gardens 
Offset Litho print 29.7 cm x 21 cm 
Munken paper 120gsm, colour Exhibition Queer Paper Gardens Museu da Eletricidade Lisbon

Backlit Gallery meets Nottingham Writers' Studio:
When writing and visual arts meet, magic can happen.
Wayne Burrows reflects on Queer Paper Gardens




 A good example of a work in which art criticism becomes art in its own right, Queer Paper Gardens, or The Wildlife of Symbols – a collaboration between the Portuguese artists paula roush & Maria Lusitano – explores the history of collage through the work of its female practitioners, from Mary Delany’s scientifically precise cut-paper botanical illustrations of the 1700s to Valentine Penrose’s surrealist Dons De Feminines made in 1951.
The beautifully produced five volume publication borrows its format from a 1934 edition of Max Ernst’s collage novel Une Semaine De Bonte, but uses the artists’ own collaborative photography, collage and drawing to highlight a less familiar path through the history and meaning of the medium itself.

Collage and collision
An artistic collaboration around the dances and counterdances
of gender, retrieves 
collage as a mode of associating images
Celso Martins reflects on Queer Paper Gardens

Expresso Atual newspaper magazine


One of the most interesting aspects of the artistic production of Maria Lusitano (1971) over at least the last ten years has to do with the fact that, in most cases, we do not have a name to define exactly what it is she presents. None of this has to do with sacramental question "Is this art?" or any doubts related to the type of support that she uses- typically the video. With Lusitano, we have a genre problem. Her constructions are too fictional to fit simply in the documentary field, whilst too informative to have that arty condition that rests the usual observers with the routine expectations typical of contemporary art .

"Queer Paper Gardens'' a collaboration with paula roush, Portuguese artist based in London, is no exception. In fact, it is an intricate installation that combines and intertwines countless ingredients (drawing, collage, photography, furniture, objects , video , etc. ) but, in effect, what makes it complex is not so much the profusion of materials used but the logic overseeeing it.
In the centre of this tension we find two works: "Une Semaine de Bonté," a book in seven chapters edited by surrealist Max Ernst in 1934, and "Dons des Féminines," composed in 1951 by surrealist poet Valentine Boué Penrose in response, through the same means of collage, to Ernst’s book. But if Ernst associated a set of images where the feminine element was consecutively subjected to violent abuse by men or monstrous beings that were clearly male, Penrose’s implicit answer generates a pattern of the feminine placed outside the domestic space, open to travel and the unknown, and that is, on the contrary, an image of power and emancipation.

Without ever getting entangled in the ease of an obvious feminist rhetoric, "Queer Paper Gardens'' is organized around this tension that infects each of the seven steps of installation (an allusion to the seven days of the week used by Ernst). The result is not just a revisitation of collage’s creative device associated with Dada and Surrealism as an experiment dated and historically situated, but a reflection on the survival of that mechanism in the contemporary. Firstly, we need to say that the installation itself works like a huge collage, if we think that it associates different nuclei that in this association never lose its integrity. Additionally because, as in collage, the creative process herein tends to converge references that appear to come out of watertight worlds but which are able to meet and generate sense.
Let’s consider the drawing of large dimensions in which female homoerotic scenes intertwine with in images of architecture or fashion of different historical times, or the collages that use nineteenth century illustrated magazines manipulated in a way that gives them a behavioral and cultural meaning well beyond the one they had in their epoch. Or, in a central position to all this, the film takes the title of the exhibition, which is both a documentary about Valentine Penrose and her world and a bold stream of cultural signs contaminated by the question of the genre, stretching back to Victorian epoch or travel until the "Snow White" of Disney, or the cult film " the Hunger" by Tony Scott.

If, as Max Ernst himself once suggested, it is not the glue that defines collage, then what survives of it today is a certain idea of the visual thinking in network, where the images are associated in infinite combinations. Maria Lusitano and paula roush use this mechanism to illuminate ghosts, find affinities or detect collisions between things

Luisa Soares de Oliveira reflects
on Queer Paper Gardens
in "Fatal women and others as such:
A visit to the surrealist museum through

Ipsilon magazine/ Publico newspaper


They are two artists who, as now and increasingly common place, living out of bounds, in this case in Great Britain: Maria lusitano and paula roush, who exhibit together since 2009, opted for professional reasons (a PhD for the first, a university lecturing job for the second) to leave the country, which does not mean to abandon the regular presentation of their work in Portuguese institutions. If Lusitano accustomed us to her work in video, always with a strong narrative component and anchored in personal or historical memories, from paula roush we knew her taste for the artist’s book, a practice that in the last two or three years, has come to interest more supporters among the younger generations of artists. In this exhibition, entitled Queer Paper Gardens, we find these two disciplines combined with the educational component that is now so present in the lives of the two artists: the show includes creative workshops for the public, who can experience the process of collage, the same that is at the roots of the work displayed here.

The room Cinzeiro 8 at the Museum of Electricity has the dimensions we usually associate with a gallery rather than a museum. Therefore the works, all on paper, based on images taken from some old illustrated magazine or photo albums of unknown provenance, when not ink drawings ink on paper, can be viewed with care, and even be the subject of an assembly where the parts overlap, pile and exhibit obsessively. Like a dream.

The comparison is not involuntary. Lusitano and roush sought illustrious precedents in the history of collage, namely Max Ernst and Valentine Penrose, two Surrealist artists who practiced collage in the creation of novels, and the association of unusual shapes and motifs to arouse the imagination, as it was dear to Breton followers. Max Ernst, firstly, since 1921 but especially since 1929, when he publishes La Femme 100 Tetes, created pieces where the female figure appears in the ambiguity of the stereotypes associated with the image of women by the bourgeois culture, both Eve and Lilith; this project would later develop in Une Semaine de Bonte, 1934, the work to which the artists refer specifically. As for Penrose, who was married to the British poet and painter of the same name, published (amongst others) Dons des Féminines in 1951, adopting the same kind of collage as Ernst but giving her work a feminist vision that was absent from his and the lives of the Surrealists of the times.

The artists’ collages on paper, as well as the video or the books that they show, emerge from this last work: after all, the film - video or not - comes from a fundamental process of editing that is no more than a collage of disparate sequences to obtain a significant end result. Images of women crystallized by cinema, revealing the double meaning as quoted above between the femme fatale and naive young woman, in a succession of double fast paced sequencing, stress the principle of surrealist collage, which is also enhanced by the presence of a collection of disparate chairs in ruin, where the viewer is implicitly invited to seat. In other situations, it is clearly personal photographs that were worked by artists with a view to obtaining that difficult opening to another world that Surrealism sought.

And not even a note of humor is missing, always present in any surrealist exhibition in the middle of the twentieth century: a fox teddy dressed in pants and jacket is sitting on the top of a table in the exposition. I sense the artists had fun creating these works. It is impossible not to see them with a smile, much more than with the surprise or scandal that their ancestors raised in the epoch in which they worked. As surrealist collage emerges from a specific historical timing. The project does not claim its belongings to a movement that had its epoch and its context, and is today irretrievable. Lusitano and roush know that. Their proposal is a different one: to update the freedom of artistic creation and practiced by Ernst and Penrose, a freedom that passed also by the choice of a technique that did not belong to the illustrious painting or sculpture. Moreover, the book as a means of artistic diffusion was also far from the weight of the museum or the art gallery. Interestingly, in market terms, things have not changed that much in the almost hundred years that separate us from Max Ernst; neither the work on paper, nor the video art or the artist’s book, reach the price values of other techniques. What has really changed, or at least has started to change significantly, is the status of women, and the increasing distance that separates us women from the original images that inspired the artists.

Tanja Verlak reflects
on msdm projects
in "Excavation Thrill"

Nowiswere Magazine Issue 12

Bowville, commissioned by Space (London, 2004) to be part of their platform on wireless public technologies (...) was extended research on the political economies of photography as a means of identification. This work brought together the history of photographic surveillance and its present implications for social stigma and deportation, such as polices use of electronic tagging to keep non-European immigrants under surveillance. Photography served as one of the main vehicles for this project but the medium was questioned, and integrated in the form of converging multi-layered mechanisms of new and old technologies (geo-locative media, wireless video stream, archival photography, fictional biography, performance with characters) that make the unitary identification of the work’s physical support impossible. The confrontation of photography and technologies of fear was made manifest in the work’s structure, bringing together a timed performance, a publicly sited investigation bureau, a detective story sometimes mimicking the police’s own investigation methods and the participation of the public.

3rd Dimension Magazine reflections
on  Participatory Architectures
in "Paradigm Store at Howick Place"

Moving round the corner, the viewer is immediately drawn in to paula roush’s complex, absorbing installation, Participatory Architectures (2014) which almost acts as a cri de coeur. This work is based on the period after the coup d’état in Portugal in the early 1970s when there was a surge of utopian building projects and creativity. Then after the economic setbacks of 2008, Portugal began selling these communes to developers, effectively for land clearance. Here, laid out dispassionately on makeshift tables that span the room, are poignant photographs, objects and memorabilia that resonate with disillusionment. roush’s bricks are a metaphor for construction /destruction and also challenge the government with rebellion. She creates individual collages of all forty-one houses on the Apeadeiro estate in southern Portugal, and with a bitter irony, wraps them in the same ribbon the government uses to fasten its official documents.

Doreen Mende reflects
on Protest Academy  
in "Radio as Exhibition Space"

In Heidi Grundmann et al. (eds.) Re-Inventing Radio Aspects of Radio as Art
Revolver 2008


Both paula roush/msdm (mobile strategies of display & mediation) and the Ultra-red group (for EAR APPEAL, Dont Rhine and Manuela Bojadˇzijev) used the Kunsthalle as a meeting place and discussion venue. Generally speaking, radio took on the role of postproduction as well as that of publication and distribution.
After periods in London and Leipzig, London artist paula roush localized her Protest Academy in the show in Vienna as a vital structure for cooperation, exchange, education, and information-gathering about audio tactics that articulate social or political resistance.
When does sound become information and protest?
As the setting for a workshop and as an installation in the exhibition, visitors had access to the protest archive begun in London in 2005 containing newspaper articles, CDs with songs of protest and peace, an opera libretto, theoretical text by Toni Negri and Gilles Deleuze, and a variety of projects and documentation by artists including Oliver Ressler, Temporary Services, and Melanie Jackson.

Axel Stockburger reflects
on Protest Academy
In "Beyond Sound Art
Ear Appeal exhibition
at Kunsthalle Exnergasse."  

dérive N ° 27 (Apr - June / 2007) 

Module 01: Tactical Audio , a collaboration between the London artist Paula Roush and the msdm collective, made available an extensive archive of auditory tactics and strategies of protest ( field recordings of demonstrations, radio broadcasts, auditory interventions, etc.) on records, which the Turned visitors to the exhibition into DJs of the material. This Tactical Audio Archiveis accessible online and is constantly being expanded with new articles. As part of the exhibition, a workshop and a radio broadcast took place that dealt with questions about the auditory representation of protest. Here, in an exemplary manner, it is made clear which, often overlooked, role auditory performance has for the production of attention in public space, and at the same time research is carried out into how auditory interventions can be used for protest actions. 

Rael Artel reflects
on Mud d' Artiste
in "Artists in Fieldwork: Anu Vahtra,
Jaanus Samma, paula roush, Pilvi Takala."

Peateema Magazine


The idea of a summer resort and its current reality was the main topic of the London-based Portuguese artist paula roush's work "Mud d'artiste." It consistsof three parts: two glass jars with leftover mud gathered from the artist's body and provided with labels clearly paraphrasing Piero Manzoni's work of 1961. The second part is a video with two parallel shots showing the artist enjoying a mud bath and the exhibits of the display of the wax figures that used to take place at the same place. The third part is the webcast of the artist dancing in front of the tourist office in the main street, in front of the Parnu weather camera. In all the parts the artist had masked her head and face with mud,  leaving out only the eyes .Attempting to baste the meanings, we might assume that the criminalised artist in mud mask- an allusion to a terrorrist- is commenting upon traditional curative attractions, "cultural undertakings" (waxwork exhibition) directed at mass audiences and the web-based surveillance system.

The artist's working methods deserve special attention as well. paula's speed of reaction was amazing - the artist, working with experimental public art and issues of urban space, generated her project based on her experience in Parnu within  few days. paula's strategy is simple: she moves around with open eyes and mind through different layers of urban space, notices and picks up meaningful objects, telling human relations and unique behavioural patterns, and joins them together into one work with several ideas still loose. Incidentally, "Mud d'Artiste" created in Parnu was also displayed at tourism related exhibition "Global Tour" at W139 in Amsterdam.

Regine Debatty reflects
on  Arphield Recordings 
in "New Brave World workshop
at IMAL- RFID and Art."

We Make Money not Art


The London-based media artist paula roush is probably the first who have explored the sonic properties of RFID.

From the project page: "Arphield Recordings" is a project documenting impromptu arphid sound performances produced by people scanning their oysters cards in the daily routine of access control to the London tube stations.

The methodology of field recordings (documentation of site-specific soundscapes through audio recording equipment) is, in this case, focused on the sampling of sounds produced by the use of arphid (rfid) technology (cards and readers) complemented by digital processing involving sampling and synthesis from the source, speculating on the ad infinitum convergence of arphid tags and readers into an endless symphony of sound surveillance and compliance.

The project started with the idea for an arphid mob, inviting friends to join me at a designated tube station for a semi-coreographed sound jam using our oyster cards. The main question was 'when and where' as a major impediment would always be the heavy security at all the gates. It was decided I would do some observation and this would eventually indicate the best timing and location for our arphid mob. Observing the familiar tube's access control gates, initially with no equipment and later with a camcorder, I realised that people were already engaging in impromptu sound performances. My documentation led me to discern varied patterns and even participatory scores, with mass arphid soundscapes punctuated by silences, glitches and cracks in the system, all warped up in a circadian rhythm of work-rush hours.

The first arphield recordings - documenting the impromptu sound performance of people moving through the London tube access control gates were done in Brixton, Kings Cross and Caledonian Road tube stations during march 2006 for the TAGGED one day event at SPACE Media Arts (NodeLondon March 2006), when cds with the tracks and locational tags were distributed.

The second arphield recordings- the stockwell sound/jam memorial happened on Saturday 10th of June 2006 when people in london were invited to gather in the Stockwell tube station and scan their oyster card for 30second sync periods accompanied by a podcast of pre-recorded oyster beep tracks.

Why did you decide to propose an RFID project? What was your specific motivation in this case?

Arphield Recodings was conceived as a probe into the practice of sousveillance and a more general understanding of the the arphid surveillance/equiveillance of public space and transport. It also foregrounds itself into the field of networked performance and possible notions of community, interaction, and connectedness among participants.

The emerging field of personal sousveillance - the capture, processing, storage, retrieval, and transmission of an activity from the perspective of a participant in the activity (i.e. personal experience capture) using camera phones, and wearables has been mainly focused on the visual. See the dominance of weblogs as photo- and video-blogs. Surveillance studies as well have given a proeminence to the visual. However, "The history of surveillance is as much about a sound history as a history of vision" / "we need a sound history of surveillance" / "the polyphony of sounds increasingly regulates and is regulated by us" as Michael Bull and Les Black write in the intro to the Auditory culture reader (2003).

Annie Kelly, reflects 
on SOS: OK Emergency Biscuit
in "Bermondsey takes the biscuit.
Former Peek Freen employees
back community project."

The Guardian

Bermondsey, in south-east London, was once affectionately known as Biscuit Town. Home to some of the largest biscuit factories in the country, it provided employment to generations of local families. Now it's a very different story. The biscuit factories have closed, and many of their former employees are unemployed. The only businesses that come into Bermondsey now are the large property developers buying up old factories and turning them into gated residences for well-paid workers at nearby Canary Wharf.

But a group of former employees of the Peek Freen biscuit factory, one of the last to close its doors, in 1989, have reunited to give Biscuit Town a new lease of life. They were brought together by artist paula roush, who has won Arts Council funding to launch SOS:UK, a community project that explores the local heritage of deprived communities. roush invited ex-workers back to Peek Freen and has run a series of events celebrating the history of Biscuit Town. This weekend, the factory is hosting a mock emergency food distribution.

Joanna Callaghan reflects on
SOS: OK Emergency Biscuit
in "Go on! Have another one!"

True Review

On a cold bright Sunday at the end of October I took the Jubilee line to Bermondsey, walked a bit and found the gallery Coleman Project Space located in a pretty street, ten minutes from the station. There I was greeted by two young women dressed in customised white and yellow suits offering me a cup of tea. I sat down on one of the camp stretchers, next to a neatly folded blanket and careful to stay within the yellow and black emergency zone marked on the floor. Sitting on another stretcher opposite me were two older ladies. They nodded and smiled at me while drinking cups of tea and chatting. Next in was Ron Henocq director of the neighbour Café Gallery Project who sat down like he was home at last. Very soon an elderly couple were spotted crossing the street in our direction, quickly they were greeted with cups of tea, bottoms moved along and things began to get lively. Then to add to the interesting concoction, a well dressed man who turned out to be a local architect came in to find out more about the project. Everyone started talking at once. For a Sunday morning it was a lively affair.

Artist paula roush showed me some of the press clippings that the project had received while talking about the history of the idea and its evolution. I was surprised at the number of ‘entry points’ the project had for local people and organisations. There were the ex-workers of the Peek Freans biscuit factory, a driving force behind the project, arts students from Camberwell College of Arts enacting emergency situations and distributing food aid, local film studio Sands Films had lent rare film footage and other images from their picture library and then of course there was the artists and curators that form part of the local network of the Coleman Project Space. It occurred to me while sitting there munching on a rather delicious biscuit that here was a real, authentic and contemporary community arts project. Roush had accomplised something quite remarkable. The fusing and channeling of varied local populations into a highly original conceptual arts project. A project that has historical relevance, that highlights the political and social repercussions of urban regeneration and fosters positive and productive relationships between art and local communities. Not only that, but there was a real, tangible product that could have an impact on real, tangible people! Phew! What an achievement.

Britta Schatz reflects
on Frankfurtress Ghetto Blast
in " City Stripping"

Die Tageszeitung


Three artists show at Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst (GAK), in an exhibition exposing the myths underlying the modern city. The ideology of the modern city followed human social development and the ideological position that it should accommodate all their inhabitants equivalently. In the exhibition City Stripping, at GAK, three artists explore different aspects of today's development of this vision.

paula roush brings up for discussion the geographical modifications of a cityscape by the example of Frankfurt as a global player in the international financial world. The computer game "Frankfurtress Ghetto Blast" symbolises the city's individual quarters and their inhabitants, and points out the meaning of their geographical position. The quarters get points assigned: the Citadel, the economic focal point of the city, receives 1000 points, while the Ghetto is pushed completely to the edge and is evaluated with only 400 points. By mouse-click, the photographic surfaces of Frankfurt's city centre are symbolically rearranged in its appearance. The video game is the starting point for an installation of Paula Roush, which extends a series of images into the space outside the GAK.

The work of the three artists is a small " but exemplary showcase of contemporary artistic practices dealing with the analysis and development of the city" argues Eva Schmidt.

 Steve Smith comments on
paula's post-studio practice

In "Contemporary Post-Studio Art Practice
and its Institutional Currency, Investigative
study with interviews with five U.K based
artists, Louise Ashcroft, Claire Blundell Jones,
Helene Kazan, Danny Pockets and paula roush,
University of Westminster (MA in Visual Cultures)

Contemporary Post-Studio Art Practice
and its Institutional Currency.


In investigation of these questions I have interviewed five U.K based artists, Louise Ashcroft, Claire Blundell Jones, Helene Kazan, Danny Pockets and paula roush who have to a greater or lesser extent adopted post-studio methods in their art practices. Through a series of semiformal interviews or conversations I have asked the artists to describe their practice methodologies, explain their motivations and their attitudes to the conventional institutions of display. In doing so I hope to investigate the contemporary nature of concerns raised by some of post-studio’s key artists. I seek to understand post-studio’s historical legacies, for example Danny Pockets practice is embedded in the customs of the studio, however, much of his work manifests itself in the style and manner of post-studio’s installation methods and contexts of display. paula roush’s practice is heavily informed by post-studio’s elements of institutional critique and performative processes but has increasingly taken a trajectory from conventional 6 institutions to other destinations. Louise Ashcroft’s work is reminiscent of artists such as Robert Smithson that focus on siting rather than production. Claire Blundell Jones uses performative methods within and outside institutions, her works do not carry an overt institutional critique when produced in institutions, however they can still be observed as critique of social and institutional codes that are exposed in the unfolding of these works. Finally in the practice of Helene Kazan we see an artist who is thoroughly conversant with the legacies of post-studio methods and is concerned with wider issues of social relations within the field of art, Kazan insinuates these concerns within her post-studio methodologies of practice.

The artist paula roush recognises in the historical development of institutional critique that critique has now been subsumed and controlled with curators within institutions inviting artists to take part in a predetermined programme of critique, she comments: ‘the curators working within the institutions are doing their institutional critique through their creative curating… all these participatory strategies and institutional critique strategies that came from a specific context by creating a platform and then bringing in people. I don’t think it has anything to do (with it), it’s a pastiche of institutional critique.’32

roush describes this process as simulation, as ‘empty floating signifiers’. We can observe this pastiche or simulation as an appropriation by the institution that neutralises critique and re-sites the sovereign decisions of critique that once rested with artists back in the hands of the institution, in these appropriative methods by the institution we can define a new realisation of criticality and opposition. As we have seen in Andrea Fraser’s analysis it would follow that this process allows for the institution to re-appropriate the activities of the critical artist within the institution to transfer cultural currency back in to the institution's hands. Further to this we might reflect on the following statement by Robert Smithson and echoed in the words of Daniel Buren33: ‘The function of the warder-curator is to separate art from the rest of society. Next comes integration. Once the work of art is totally neutralized, ineffective, abstracted, safe, and politically lobotomized it is ready to be consumed by society. All is reduced to visual fodder and transportable merchandise. Innovations are allowed only if they support this kind of confinement.’34 The appearance of institutional critique in conventional institutions can now be observed not as critical but as processes that appear as signified criticality, only as the ‘appearance’ of criticality, not true opposition as an agent of change within the institution. This is where we can draw a distinction between critique and opposition, critique is now embedded and confined, and to return to Smithson’s phrase, ‘politically lobotomized’, within the institution's codes.

Sovereign vs. Institutional Freedom We can see elements of post-studio practice that are employed by artists being appropriated into institutions; even performances or actions that were once critical are now, in their appropriation, neutralized and confined, 'politically lobotomized'. As much as the paintings and sculptures of the past that have been absorbed into the ossifying customs of the museum or gallery even more immaterial and contestable critiques of the institution can be appropriated and repackaged by the institution into its customs and employed to reinforce itself as the prevalent bourgeois ideology. If the most critical elements of art practice are thus absorbed into the customs of the prevalent ideology we might ask: just what measures artists must take to assert their sovereign decisions? What becomes clear is that if such overtly critical work can be appropriated by the institution then artists are increasingly alienated from developing their sovereign work in the institution. In paula roush’s experience the institution can stifle a very important element of artists' methods in the realisation of their work:

‘…the new generation of creative curators that have a very specific idea of what they want and they come with all their institutional critique ideas that they want you to fill in to their platform…there’s a type of curator I don’t have very good experiences, I call it creative curator as a joke… that put you in an agenda, they want you to fulfill a certain role in their agenda, and because I’m a bit unpredictable, as you can imagine, if there expecting something and then I don’t deliver exactly what they need in that platform that they’ve created, its quite rigid, it puts you in a certain category.’35

roush indicates an important element in the tensions between the institution, curator and artist and the issues of sovereign freedom in the realisation of the artwork. Not only do institutional systems confine the artwork, they are increasingly in more participatory, responsive and performative roles stifling an artists very practice, those that rely on contingency and unpredictability in the making or performance of the work. The measures taken by curators in institutions to contain or control these processes in many case jeopordise the realisation or seek to appropriate the very practices of the work as their own cultural currency. As we have seen this tension between sovereign and institutional freedom has become very real, so much so that an assertion of sovereign freedom by the artist in the institution may be seen by that institution as an ‘infringement’. That Smithson uses such strong a term as ‘politically lobotomized’ brings in to question the ability for art works to act as political agency that Groys suggests although we might argue that artists' practice can still exert this political agency in its alienation, or as in roush’s case a certain self-exclusion, which as we will see later seems an increasingly viable response by artists in the furtherance of their practice. Groys is hopeful when he concludes his essay by explaining ‘…the artist who designs a certain installation space is an outsider to this space. He or she is heterotopic to this space. But the outsider is not necessarily somebody who has to be included in order to be empowered. There is also empowerment by exclusion, and especially self-exclusion. The outsider can be powerful precisely because he or she is not controlled by society, and is not limited in his or her sovereign actions by any public discussion or by any need for public self-justification.’36

We are the institution As we have established, the territories of critical practice and the oppositional nature of poststudio, and now as we might understand it in the legacies of post-studio practice, contemporary post-institutional practices are inherently imbued in their social relations to institutions of art as critical in their role as oppositional to the conventional modes of display. As we have seen poststudio’s institutional critique is sited within the institution in the works of Andrea Fraser and the criticality in the landworks of Robert Smithson come in its oppositional attitudes to conventional sites of display. In the works of the contemporary artists we have observed, we can see a development from post-studio to post-institutional practice, one that understands its criticality and opposition as it seeks to work unhindered by the prevalent codes within art's institutions, but does not rely on critique of these codes to manifest and contextualise the artworks. These practices seek to develop new codes within arts social field not to react to existing ones.

Andrea Fraser became one of the most recognisable of the ‘institutional critique’ post-studio artists. In 2005 she wrote a reappraisal of what institutional critique could mean. In an ongoing practice which investigated the power relations between institutions of display, the artist and the audience, she recognised the difficulties of critique being absorbed within institutions. ‘one finds a certain nostalgia for institutional critique arise as a now anachronistic artifact of an era before the corporate megamuseum and the 24/7 global art market, a time when artists could still conceivably take up a critical position against or outside the institution. Today, the argument goes, there no longer is an outside. How, then can we imagine, much less accomplish, a critique of art institutions when museum and market have grown into an all-encompassing apparatus of cultural reification? Now, when we need it most, institutional critique is dead, a victim of its success or failure, swallowed up by the institution it stood against.’55

This analysis echoes paula roush’s disillusionment with institutional critique and its appropriation and instrumentalisation, however as we have seen in our analysis of the artist's sovereign decisions and dissensual practice, the space for critique has moved from post-studio to a post-institutional territory, a territory that in its movement away from the conventional institutions of display can still in Groys’ and Ranciere’s understanding be an oppositional force to the prevalent bourgeois ideologies that Buren recognises our institutions to be.

Regine Debatty comments on
for We Make money Not Art

Orwellian Projects

In August 2004, paula roush --author of the Arphid Recordings performances in London-- got herself electronically tagged. She created a semi fictional alter-ego Marion Manesta Forrester, who was electronically tagged and given a period of three days to earn her citizenship to Bowville, a fictional urban cityscape whose inhabitants were invited to follow her movements and vote for or against the protagonist.

Roush chose the name Marion Manesta Forrester, as a partial homage to the suffragettes- the first women to undergo and rebel against photographic surveillance, the work is also a partial reaction to the announcement of electronic tagging for asylum seekers in the UK, and a reference to Lars Von Triers' Dogville.

Suhjung Hur, Annie On Ni Wan, Andrew Paterson
comment on Bowville
for Leonardo Electronic Almanac

Locative Media, on and off the beaten track

Embodying the concept of a grassroot ‘street version of the Internet’ , locative media interventions have often followed an ocular-dominated technological perspective that moves the point of interaction from the desktop PC in a private environment into the physical realm of public space. Further, continuing the trajectory of Happenings, Fluxus, and the Situationists from the 1950s onwards – whose interests in direct public participation were also pursued by early Internet art - locative media practices have aimed to engage the participation of individual, whether it is the artist, collaborator, targeted audience or anonymous public.

(…) The participatory and collaborative aspects of locative media foreground participants’ site-specific experience in local context, while encouraging them to be performers within the activity. Through their practices of walking, listening, conversation, game-playing, or living an everyday life, an individual partakes in different roles: gardener, composer, choreographer, cartographer, walker, tattooist, spectator, data-collector, storyteller, decision-maker, archaeologist, explorer; Or, simply but importantly, just an other within public environment. (...) Complex and ethical questions also arise. How do these technologies invite participation? Will the technologies be a 'restrictive collar around the neck' as in roush's Bowville, which control accessibility and communal decision-making process? Then, where and who is the community voice?

Hattie Spires comments on Bowville
in "The crisis of interpretation:
An investigation into the dynamics
of engagement with site-specific art
in the age of squanto.
Goldsmiths College.

In an extremely timely and important intervention that took place in August 2004, the artist paula roush (msdm) set forth a proposition into the ‘real space’ of the community of Bow in East London through her project Bowville.  The Bowville Investigation Bureau, set up in a disused shop on Roman Road market, served as the surveillance centre from which the Bureau could track and monitor the movements of the protagonist Marion Manesta Forresta. Pointing back to the suffragette movement, Marion’s name is a bastardisation of three members of the suffragette movement, some of whom were the first people to undergo surveillance. Considered by the local authorities for her affiliation with left wing organisations, most notably Eastopia, Marion was given the chance to earn her right to stay in Bowville without surveillance through winning the public vote. Using global satellite positioning technology, the Bureau was able to track her movements through the streets of Bowville and enforce border restrictions on her whilst she developed an increasing presence and identity with the local community in which she tried to earn her citizenship. A wireless camera fed live footage of her actions back to the Bureau where continuous research into current global acts of terror took place.

Bowville’s extraordinary ability to elicit complex histories and experiences from the local community through dialogue with the artist and the performers was in part due to its enduring topicality, partly its extended presence on the site of Bow, to some extent its reactivation of local histories and a continuation of past projects in the same contact zone but primarily due to an increasing sense of community through ‘labour in the field’. One could easily displace the notion of ‘site’ within the confines of this project for an intervention that tended towards ‘community-specific,’ ‘issue-specific,’ ‘audience-specific’ and was indeed all of these things and countless others but such easy dismissals would undermine the enormously complex issue at hand which is that the site is the interrelation of all of these. Bowville’s reactivation of local histories associated with the suffragette movement, its relation to current topics surrounding diaspora, surveillance and territories and the subsequent real-time involvement of the community that added a further layer of interpretation, all produced a functional site that elicited individual histories. The respondent’s reactions varied over the duration of the project from “it’s not Bowville, it’s Bow; you’re going to have to understand that if you want to stay here” to the uncovering of one Muslim man’s story of his migration from New York to the East End of London and his accounts of the local community’s projection of the notion of ‘Muslim’ onto him during the current climate of terror and fear. The project’s strength was located in its articulation of the clashing of psychic subjectivities and material conditions without occupying a moral high ground.

Sara Raza comments on Bowville
The KISSS Project: Kinship International
Strategy on Surveillance and Suppression,
Elastic residence, London

Art in Security and Security in Art


International artists such as Bangladeshi-American Hasan Elahi and London based Portuguese artist paula roush have been pushing the boundaries between fixed definitions of technology and art by creating tracking/ tagging devices, that bear an uncanny resemblance to the mandatory “bracelets” worn by high risk criminals or those on parole so that law enforcement officers can keep track of their whereabouts.

(…) roush has created a semi fictional alter-ego Marion Manesta Forrester, who first surfaced at London’s Bow Festival in 2004. Manesta Forrester was electronically tagged and was given a period of three days to earn her citizenship to Bowville. Bowville functioned as a fictional urban cityscape whose inhabitants were actively invited to partake in the countdown by voting for or against the protagonist. The networked performance undoubtedly resembled the reality television show “Big Brother,” which created quite an addictive storm in the UK, where 10 housemates lived in the same house and members of the public weekly eliminated a member until there was only one: the winner. Simultaneously, the piece also referred to the real and actual notion of elimination and in-voluntary deportation of immigrants, asylum seekers and political refugees. Furthermore, the fact that the performance was staged for an urban setting additionally gave voice to the city as a site of investigation, which is an on going theme interwoven into roush’s practice whereby, she actively works with the dual concept of politics and public space. Incidentally, this practice is based on a long series of performative works that examine the notion of emergency, public time and space and is a continuation of the “Exercise SOS: OK (save our souls: zero killings),” 2004 an ongoing project that looks at decontamination and consumption as politically charged armaments against institutional power formations. Ultimately, roush’s strategies re-appropriate the strategies of 1970s feminist artists, however, roush’s version has traded the issue of housework with security work. Nonetheless, the body under siege remains a feature from which one is able to trace a lineage with roush’s feminist predecessors

Margarida Carvalho comments
on the cctvecstasy project
in A Obra “Faça-você-mesmo”:
Estética da Participação nas Artes Digitais

Margarida Carvalho, A Obra “Faça-você-mesmo”: Estética da Participação nas Artes Digitais,
Tese de Doutoramento em Ciências da Comunicação, Especialidade de Comunicação e Artes,
Universidade Nova de Lisboa, 2014


Podemos então afirmar que a cyberformance é um subgénero da categoria mais vasta da performance em rede e é precisamente à luz destes conceitos que passamos agora a analisar o projeto cctvecstasy, do coletivo Webcam Operators (2009), que foi desenvolvido em 2009, no âmbito do festival Radiator, em Nottingham. Participaram, nesta cyberformance, paula roush, no QUAD, em Derby, Marie Josiane Agossou, na Universidade de South Bank, Londres, Lina Jungergård no espaço Area 10, Londres, Deej Fabyc na Elastic Gallery, Suécia, Lara Morais e Maria Lusitano na Academia de Arte de Malmo, Suécia, e Aaron de Montesse e Anne Overaa nas suas casas. Susana Mendes Silva era também um dos membros do coletivo mas problemas técnicos imprevistos impediram a sua participação.

A performance cctvecstasy pode ser pensada como um projeto site-specific na medida em que teve lugar na comunidade online WebCamNow que estabelece a ligação em direto de webcams, em todo o mundo, sem ser necessário que o utilizador crie uma homepage ou mesmo um perfil pessoal. A plataforma WebcamNow consiste numa interface readymade e está dividida em duas áreas, a área aberta, sob licença para conteúdos adultos e que é utilizada acima de tudo por participantes em busca de experiências íntimas e uma segunda área, designada de “amigos e família”, na qual os intervenientes sabem que as suas ações poderão ser monitorizadas. Ao contrário das redes sociais e de live streaming mais recentes, que combinam videostream e videologs (uma variante de weblogs, cujo conteúdo principal consiste em vídeos), a comunidade WebcamNow não disponibiliza arquivo de vídeo, imagens ou mensagens incidindo antes na utilização de webcams para transmitir em direto a partir de ambientes íntimos (webcamming). A interface da WebCamNow inclui canais de vídeo, chat em texto e uma barra que indica quem é que está ligado a cada sala vídeo e que funciona como um
indicador de popularidade à semelhança das life bars dos jogos de computador.

Assim, após um período de investigação, o projeto cctvecstasy desenvolveu-se em torno de uma narrativa esboçada a partir dos encontros das performers com os outros participantes da comunidade. As performances desenvolvidas ocorreram em vários canais de vídeo e questionavam as condições de receção e participação próprias do espectador e utilizador da plataforma WebCamNow. Nas palavras de paula roush:

Podemos então afirmar que a cyberformance é um subgénero da categoria mais vasta da performance em rede e é precisamente à luz destes conceitos que passamos agora a analisar o projeto cctvecstasy, do coletivo Webcam Operators (2009), que foi desenvolvido em 2009, no âmbito do festival Radiator, em Nottingham. Participaram, nesta cyberformance, paula roush, no QUAD, em Derby, Marie Josiane Agossou, na Universidade de South Bank, Londres, Lina Jungergård no espaço Area 10, Londres, Deej Fabyc na Elastic Gallery, Suécia, Lara Morais e Maria Lusitano na Academia de Arte de Malmo, Suécia, e Aaron de Montesse e Anne Overaa nas suas casas. Susana Mendes Silva era também um dos membros do coletivo mas problemas técnicos imprevistos impediram a sua participação.

A performance cctvecstasy pode ser pensada como um projeto site-specific na medida em que teve lugar na comunidade online WebCamNow que estabelece a ligação em direto de webcams, em todo o mundo, sem ser necessário que o utilizador crie uma homepage ou mesmo um perfil pessoal. A plataforma WebcamNow consiste numa interface readymade e está dividida em duas áreas, a área aberta, sob licença para conteúdos adultos e que é utilizada acima de tudo por participantes em busca de experiências íntimas e uma segunda área, designada de “amigos e família”, na qual os intervenientes sabem que as suas ações poderão ser monitorizadas. Ao contrário das redes sociais e de live streaming mais recentes, que combinam videostream e videologs (uma variante de weblogs, cujo conteúdo principal consiste em vídeos), a comunidade WebcamNow não disponibiliza arquivo de vídeo, imagens ou mensagens incidindo antes na utilização de webcams para transmitir em direto a partir de ambientes íntimos (webcamming). A interface da WebCamNow inclui canais de vídeo, chat em texto e uma barra que indica quem é que está ligado a cada sala vídeo e que funciona como um
indicador de popularidade à semelhança das life bars dos jogos de computador.

Assim, após um período de investigação, o projeto cctvecstasy desenvolveu-se em torno de uma narrativa esboçada a partir dos encontros das performers com os outros participantes da comunidade. As performances desenvolvidas ocorreram em vários canais de vídeo e questionavam as condições de receção e participação próprias do espectador e utilizador da plataforma WebCamNow. Nas palavras de paula roush:

“ [Na área aberta da plataforma WebcamNow] uma variedade de pessoas hétero e LGBTQ (lésbicas, gay, bissexuais, transgénero e queer) operam as suas webcams, jogando com estratégias múltiplas: da autenticidade encenada das que instalam a webcam nos seus quartos, colocando a sua vida sob escrutínio, a outras que se mascaram em versões muito encenadas de feminilidade/masculinidade e fetichismo, atuando para um grupo particular de devotos. Nós usámos a webcamming e as ferramentas de chat de texto livremente disponíveis a fim de trabalhar sincronicamente através de salas separadas e comunicar com outras salas
de chat de vídeo.” (roush, 2010: 116)

A performance decorreu online e perante uma audiência em presença, na galeria QUAD em Derby, com sete performers em live streaming enquanto paula roush operava ao vivo a passagem entre os vários espaços. A própria audiência era filmada e transmitida via live feed num canal vídeo. Podemos, portanto, falar de um espaço híbrido em jogo na cyberformance cctvecstasy. De sala de chat em sala de chat, as várias performances são, por sua vez, objeto da intervenção da performer que se encontra no espaço físico da galeria, junto da audiência, e que manipula em tempo real a visibilidade das ações e dos espaços.

Assim, é de salientar que as zonas de contacto e os movimentos de passagem se expandem neste projeto: são as interações e misturas entre os utilizadores da plataforma WebCamNow; as fronteiras diluídas entre a banalidade das imagens quotidianas e o elemento intencionalmente performativo; as intervenções dos participantes da comunidade WebCamNow na performance em tempo real via chat; e, finalmente, os contágios entre os espaços físicos remotos habitados pelas performers, o espaço
telemático da World Wide Web e o espaço da galeria onde se encontra a audiência em presença.

Neste contexto consideramos que é pertinente referir o conceito de “performance liminar” de Susan Broadhurst que “joga com o limite do possível” tendo como caraterísticas fundamentais a “hibridização, indeterminação, ausência de ‘aura’ e o colapso da distinção hierárquica entre cultura popular e de elite” (Broadhurst, 1999: 1). Paralelamente, a noção de “audiência intermedial”, proposta por Helen Varley Jamieson, é igualmente relevante uma vez que abrange simultaneamente as audiências online e em presença que se encontram envolvidas, mental e fisicamente, em múltiplas tarefas, assumindo vários papéis − nomeadamente os de espectador, performer, autor, leitor, comentador, chatter e voyeur.

De salientar também a estética low-tech e faça-você-mesmo da cyberformance cctvecstasy e a centralidade da webcam na criação de um espaço íntimo, cheio de textura, que dá vontade de acariciar, agarrar a imagem, passar para o outro lado e habitar o espaço do corpo da performer. O olhar íntimo da webcam é quase como o olhar que resulta de um enlace amoroso, demasiado perto para podermos realmente ver. Assim, o voyeurismo associado às práticas de webcamming deve ser equacionado à luz desta proximidade, da baixa resolução da imagem e da manipulação da sua suposta estética de autenticidade. Talvez por isso o recurso à máscara seja recorrente nas práticas de cyberformance. A máscara assinala o caráter mercurial da identidade online e o misto de ficção e realidade em jogo na experiência de telepresença precipitada pela performance em rede. Nas palavras de Lynn Hershman Leeson em “Romancing the Anti-Body: Lust and Longing in (Cyber)space”:

“Antes de ficar completamente ligado ou imerso no ciberespaço, o indivíduo tem de criar uma máscara. Esta torna-se uma assinatura, uma impressão digital, uma sombra, um meio de reconhecimento. A justificação para este disfarce é similar à das camuflagens tribais: as
máscaras ocultam o corpo e ao fazê-lo libertam e dão voz às identidades virtuais. No momento em que a verdade pessoal se liberta, a face frágil e ténue da vulnerabilidade é protegida.” (Leeson, 1996: 325)

Efetivamente, um jogo ambíguo entre ocultação e desvelamento, simulação e autenticidade, intimidade e voyeurismo, perpassa as práticas artísticas que emergem das redes digitais, sendo de destacar a este respeito o corpo de trabalho performativo de Annie Abrahams no qual comunicação e intimidade, na sua miríade de declinações, se transformam em autênticos problemas na aceção deleuziana do termo.

Eva Schmidt comments on
Frankfurtress Ghetto Blast
GAK: Gesellschaft fur Aktuelle Kunst

City Stripping


"Stripping " means: clearing away layers, surfaces; " Stripping " means: the structure open. With the striptease the coverings are artfully removed, so that the view of the desired object can happen. In the case of this exhibition in the GAK the desired object is the city .

paula roush (London) transfers with "Frankfurtress Ghetto Blast" critical urban theory into the aesthetics of a computer game. Illustrated by the example of Frankfurt/Main,as a global player in ' the international financial world, modifications of urban geography, likewise segmenting the urban spaces into central, global interlaced and marginalised areas, and the space of flows ' of the international transactions clashing a conflict on the spatial needs of the local inhabitants, which is not to be resolved.

Cristina Duarte comments
on Queer Paper Gardens
in Queer paper gardens or
The wildlife of symbols
Vol. V Fundacao EDP 

a journal of one’s own, a text dedicated to mary, margaret, valentine, alice, paula, maria and all the other women


«may i start?»[first line of the ‘script’ of queer paper gardens, vídeo HD, 2013]. how to write about these 21 minutes of quasi-surrealism, that takes us throughout the history of collage, with its starting point in three objects: max ernst’s collage novel a week of goodness, valentine penrose’s collage-poem dons des féminines and mary delany’ biography, the inventor of collage; we cross their universes and those of other women artists, guided by eunice gonçalves duarte performing multiple roles, as valentine did, creator of wide-ranging meanings, such as a woman in a red dress and tribal mask going on a safari, through exotic theatre/sceneries. the universes available to us are once again of intersection, in double screen, a transport us poetically to the themes underlying delany’s masterpiece, flora delanica (1772-1782), navigating through what is apparently invisible, or absent. in these paper gardens there are no symbols of authority, but of transcendence, says the narrator, at a certain point. cruising through the botanical garden of coimbra, the female character is immersed in a time machine. it is up to us, spectators, to make the cut, the selection and “reassembly” of what is more important to us, in this process of non-normative memory, that is open to many languages and queer identities. in these not so strange gardens, i review myself with shells in my eyes… feel free to talk.

maria and paula’s film is in itself a journey about several lives, narrated through a visual history with a lyricism of its own, just as valentine’s own book. The film’s voice-over provided by artist marie josianne agossou, interprets a narration that summons the lives of various women, and the representations of these through the arts in context. valentine and mary delany are evoked as well various other women, exalted in this work of archive, composition and feminist script. we peek here at a certain cinema paradiso, at the service of the arts, through the chosen excerpts of films such as rebecca, the hunger, jane eyre, and daughters of darkness. this put us in tune with the themes approached by the artists in their video-collage, that refer to the cut-up, as well as to photography and drawing, in a narrative strategy that projects issues of gender, body representation, and the role -play involved in women’s performance throughout history. and it conjures the horror women were (and are) subjected to: the horror is displayed in jane eyre, in the bad girl of sleeping beauty, or in the madness of rebecca’s housekeeper.

Maria Claudia Bada comments
on the photobook Nothing to Undo

To leave is a bit like dying.

To leave is a bit like dying. And to be reborn again -I would suggest- as I experienced many times under my skin. We have this ancient saying in Italy, a country that -like Portugal- historically experienced a large hemorrhage of souls going abroad, tired of their own country for too many different reasons. All these new aliens were plunged into totally different emotional and cultural shores, which started to mirror back, almost instantly, broken images of their once almost established selves. As the reflections on a multiple, shining surface, this photobook by paula roush reverberates of meaningful fragments aiming to pair into coupling doppelgängers, following the farewell journey from Sweden of her friend, Maria Lusitano, stretching along the past (Portugal), the present (Sweden) and the future (UK).

What comes out of it are quite humorous, original and scary pieces of contemporary Swedish reality, intermingled with personal and political memories. Ghosts from the past and the present macro and microcosms seem to populate this trip between Malmö and Stockholm. The migrant and/or trespassing identities present in the images separate alchemically into halves to be found and reconstructed as in an exciting treasure hunt of meanings, involving intimacy, current Sweden affairs and social policy, eerie landscapes. You can certainly recombine freely the photos and create your own personal path within the book, like skilled and imaginative hands playing Tarot. Or just sailing linearly through the pages and let the fragments speak their language to you.

 I let myself merge and separate, again build, again overlap and stratify and decompose the images and the coupling doubles I kept on finding in the book and...I had to start again. And again. And again. What have I found? Nothing to undo. Each time a sense of wonder and discovery. Each time, irreversibly, a new piece of my alien self, attaching emotionally to paula and Maria’s double and fragmented journey. Have a good voyage into it, then. I am sure you will enjoy the whole trip(s).

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paula roush 

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