Deep State (Mirza & Butler’s new film, scripted by science fiction author China Mieville and commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella) takes its title from the Turkish term “Derin Devlet”, meaning a “state within the state". Though impossible to verify, the deep state allegedly manipulates political and economic policy to ensure its interests within seemingly democratic frameworks. This film tells a story about the representation of political struggle, moments of crisis, solidarity, schisms and oppression. Archive footage slices through a science fiction inflected narrative which is propelled by the relationships between those drawn together in the struggle against the deep state. The deep state is imaged as an amorphous, submerged totality which makes itself present through uncanny bleeds of colour. Its opposition is a time travelling rioter who passes through holes in conventional history created by the irruptive power of riots; these grainy portals evade the panopticon-like gaze of the deep state.
Deep State began following Mirza and Butler’s stay in Cairo on a residency at the Townhouse Gallery and also intersects with a larger body of work by Mirza and Butler entitled The Museum of Non Participation. Being in Cairo prior to the occupation of Tahrir Square, during the period in which it seemed impossible to speak about resistance, guided their interest in making a film about how to shift political language. As the figure of the language teacher tells us, this pedagogy is both a physical and verbal move away from fossilised conceptions of resistance into new, unimagined possibilities.