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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Temporary public artwork with Coleman Project Space in the site of former Biscuit town, Bermondsey entitled SOS:OK Emergency Biscuit, which allowed former workers of the Biscuit Factory to imagine and design a new biscuit to represent their neighborhood.

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.

First part of the project consisted in setting up a Memory factory in place of the former Peek Frean’s Biscuit Factory, announced as ‘a reopening of the factory for one week only as a memory factory.’ The workshops investigated the factory’s history,gathering archive material. Peek Frean former workers were invited to come to contribute their memories of Biscuit Town. They arrived with memorabilia which filled the project space turning it into a display of selected photos, clothing, gifts, books, films, sound samples and journal entries that mapped the space of memory.

A new emergency biscuit, cooked to a specially designated recipe, was created to be distributed to visitors to the gallery and on the streets of Bermondsey. Crates of biscuits were distributed by horse and cart on Tower Bridge Road and on the Blue. The exercise was partly a reference to a relief operation of 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war. When the prussians lifted their siege of Paris, Peek Freans supplied thousands of biscuits to the starving citizens.
The exhibition at the Coleman ProjectSpace was staged as a relief operation, also a response to the hunger crisis which comprises an international emergency. 



SOS:OK was featured in the exhibition Public Services along with the work of Marjetica Potrč, Apolonija Šušteršič, Temporary Services (USA) and Tadej Pogacar & Anja Planiscek, representing the way artists today think about structures and forms in contemporary cities.

Public Services presents five different starting points for engagement and five explicitly subjective approaches. These projects and creative proposals have been conceived as forms of immediate and physical intervention in the structure of the city, as social interaction, as a virtual utopian scheme. They represent a critical consideration of alternative models of public services, which, ideally, are founded on the principles of openness, access, equality, participation, mobility, adaptability, and transformativity.

When artists today think about structures and forms in the contemporary city, they think above all about the importance of open communication within urban structures. By occupying the space that lies between the many different city users, corporate capital (and its interests), and the urban structure, the[se projects] draw attention to processes of degradation and appropriation, borders between public and private, deindustrialization and precarity, while developing new public-service models based on participation, exchange, and solidarity.

Tadej Pogacar, curator Public Services 


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ə/uh/-books is the photobook publishing programme of exhibitions, artists’ talks and publications I curate at the London South Bank University. Projects have taken on various formats ranging from installations and presentations to the production of editions through commissions and collaborative workshop formats. This work has been shown nationally and internationally at All Inked up Kentʼs International Artist Book & Print Event UCA Canterbury & The Brewery Tap Folkestone, KHiO Publishing Studio Oslo National Art Academy, PRINTed #4 Singular publications zt EINA  Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art/ UAB Autonomous University of Barcelona and Arts Llibre Worshop  at ESDA LLotja Escola d’Arts i Oficis de Barcelona, Spain.

Project's archive:

Year II
ə-books #10 May 15-18, 2018 Unveil’d Photobook #01
ə-books #9 Mar 9th- Mar 23th 2018 Jens Masmann L ND N 
Year I
ə-books #8 Tuesday 25 April – Friday 26 May 2017 Tadej Pogačar + Dejan Habicht: HU? Pre-Brexit Tour
ə-books #7  March 28th – April 21st 2017 Héloïse Bergman:  The Dying Art
ə-books #6 March 21st  – March 24th 2017 Andreia Alves de Oliveira: River Boats & Inner Thoughts
ə-books #5 January 31st- February 25th 2017 Jessica Brouder: I Believe in You
ə-books #4 October 18th- November 18th 2016 Marc Vallée: Vandals and the city

ə-books #3 September 14th- October 12th 2016 Amy Warwick: Blame your parents
ə-books #2 June 28th- August 28th 2016 Martin Toft and Gareth Syvret: Atlantus
ə-books #1 May 25th- June 24th 2016 Lara Gonzalez: made and published

About ə/uh/-books project space:

During its first year of programming, the space operated out of the London South Bank University Student Centre.  With its two walk-in vitrines, the space acted as a folio (a double side printed page) between the interior and exterior of the university, as well as an experimental and reflexive form of exhibition practice for photobook works. For the second year of activity, the project has used the University's Borough Road Gallery.
The space’s aim is to supplement and extend both the teaching contents and practices of the photobook publishing programme as well as making a contribution to current debates in photobook publishing and curating. The programme alternates the presentation of students photobook works with photobook publishing projects by guest photographers, aiming to promote a dialogue between students, lecturers, invited artists, curators and theoreticians.

About [ə] the upside down e or schwa:
It is the ‘uh’ sound found in an unstressed syllable, like the final vowel of “sofa.” It’s the most common vowel sound in English. Before people started calling it “schwa” in English (around 1895) it had a lot of nicknames: the murmur vowel, the indeterminate vowel, the neutral vowel, the obscure vowel, and this is why it is a good vowel to refer to photobook works, a contested term that remains under scrutiny (the eternal debate: is it a ‘photobook’, a ‘photographic book’ or a ‘photographically illustrated book’?) in spite of its established position within the history of photography.

About  ‘uh’:
It is that inexplicable thing…a kind of a “huh?” … described by Ed Ruscha to Willoughby Sharp in a 1973 interview, as a feeling evoked by some photobook works …
WS: … It seems to me that this approach is something you pioneered withTwentysix Gasoline Stations  precisely because the idea had priority over the execution, which you made as anonymous as possible. You shot fifty stations and pared them down to twenty-six so the original idea carried. I’m interested in your reaction to that.
ER: I realized that for the first time this book had an inexplicable thing I was looking for, and that was a kind of a “Huh?” That’s what I’ve always worked around. All it is is a device to disarm somebody with my particular message. A lot of artists use that.
WS: Give me some examples of “Uh.”
ER: I don’t know, somebody digging a hole out in the desert and calling it sculpture. You know, it’s a surprise to people.
 WS: Would Duchamp be the first “Uh” artist?
ER: I think that would be spelled H-U-H, with a question mark. […] I just use that word to describe a feeling that a lot of artists are attempting to bring out, and some are doing it very well.
In “…A kind of a “Huh?”: An interview with Ed Ruscha” by Willoughby Sharp, originally published in Avalanche 7- 1973

 ə/uh/-books publications:

Jessica Brouder
new photobook work crossing the boundaries between sculpture, weaving and publishing.
edition 0f 100

RS FILES London – Munich To Be Continued
collective photobookwork,  based on a set of rules created for the workshop Self-Publishing and the Photobook, March 9th 2018
paula roush and Jens Masmann
Featuring folios by:  Amelia Attle / Raluca Babos / Emma Bircham / Razvan Bronda / Iga Cegielko / Kate Gentry / Jessica Hansson / Isabella Hewlett / Peter Di-Mola Jordan / Kyle Jackson /Charlotte Joseph / Tomasz Klimara / Jai Mills /Daisy Morey / Micah Morgan / Regan Ross / Sam Sutton /Isaac Watson

conversation between paula roush and Lara Gonzalez
On the occasion of the exhibition made and published [ProCreate Project]
ə-books project space for photobook publishing
May 25th- June 24th 2016

conversation between paula roush,Martin Toft and Gareth Syvret
On the occasion of the exhibition Atlantus A transoceanic photography project
ə-books project space for photobook publishing
June 28th- August 28th 2016

conversation between 
Amy Warwick and paula roush
On the occasion of the exhibition Blame your parents [a photozine of post-teenage years]
September 14th- October 12th 2016

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Temporary public artwork commissioned by SPACE for the Bow Wireless Festival , in East London.
As the Home Office prepared to test the efficiency of electronic tagging systems with asylum seekers, Bowville was presented as a 3-day live event starring Marion Manesta Forrester. The locative media performance used off-the -shelf purpose built equipment to simulate the official electronic tagging system and create a fictional game.  Bow residents and visitors were allowed to follow the movements of Marian Manesta Forrester-  who was electronically tagged -and vote for her to become a citizen of Bowville.



Bowville has featured in : 

Watching Europe and Beyond: Surveillance, Art and Photography in the New Millenium
Watched! Surveillance, Art and Photography
Hasselblad Foundation, C/O Berlin, Galleri Image, Kunsthal Harhus, Valand Academi
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig
[pdf download]

History is full of examples of the surveillance, scrutiny, persecution, and involuntary exposure of ethnic and sexual minorities specifically and women in general. This continues in the present, now with the use of new, overlapping technologies for tagging, tracking and mapping.
British sufragettes, who fought for women's right to vote in the early twentieth century, were regarded as revolutionary subversives and many of them were placed under surveillance, arrested and forcibly photographed by the police. Evelyn Manesta is one such example. She resisted being photographed by moving her head and body so much that a prison guard had to restrain her by the neck. This is the story paula roush reminds us of in her performance work Bowville whose main character - Marion Manesta Forrester - is named after three sufragettes. The work unites the past and the present as Marion Manesta Forrester is electronically tagged using a method tested by the British Home Office and developed by major UK security companies. She has three days to earn her citizenship of the fictional Bowvile. In roush's work, the literal long arm of the law, which was erased from the ID photograph of Evelyn Manesta taken by the police, is symbolically represented by the tagging device around Marion Manesta Forrester's neck. Punishment control ad biopolitics are thus united in automated technologies, which, whilst they might be new, are clearly historically rooted in police photography and registration by the authorities to marginalize undesirables and new arrivals.
Louise Wolthers



-The KISSS Project: Kinship International Strategy on Surveillance and Suppression,
Art in Security and Security in Art
Sara Raza
Elastic residence, London, KISSS Symposium
[ pdf full text>]


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.

-Nowiswere, Issue 12
Excavation Thrill, in conversation paula roush and Tanja Verlak
  [Full text]


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.



Suhjung Hur, Annie On Ni Wan, Andrew Paterson 
:Leonardo Electronic Almanac / Volume 14, No. 3-4 / June-July 2006 

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?


Bowville Fictitious Constituency:  Text on the conceptual framework and technologies  for Leonardo's Locative media gallery here>

-The crisis of interpretation: An investigation into the dynamics of engagement with site-specific art in the age of squanto,
Hattie Spires,
Goldsmiths College
[Full text]

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



-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.

Regine Debatty, Orwellian Projects, We Make money Not Art


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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]