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All the latest news regarding events, exhibitions and opportunities. Featuring behind the scenes, Q&A’s and more

OPEN CALL FOR SHORT FILM SUBMISSIONS

We’re looking for short films that explore people’s relationships with cities in the Arab world that are being altered and destroyed by conflict. To submit your film (30 mins maximum), send a YouTube, Vimeo or private download link to Shohini Chaudhuri, who is curating the programme: schaudh@essex.ac.uk.

Deadline for submissions: 14 March 2016.

 

Open Call

Top 5 Christmas Gift Suggestions from The Mosaic Rooms Shop

With the festive season fast approaching here are our top 5 gift suggestions… and we’re offering you FREE UK DELIVERY on any purchases from our online shop until 15 December 2015!

Starting from just £7.50, we hope one of the below will make the perfect present for any loved ones, friends or colleagues interested in Arab art and culture … or even as a little something for yourself!

Arab Cookbook Selection 

Introduce an Arab twist to your festive feast! Draw culinary inspiration from our wide range of cook books – covering favourite sweets, savoury treats and full on feasts from across the Arab world! Our tried and tested supper club recipes include Lamees Ibrahim’s mouth-watering baqlawah – freshly baked and served warm (recipe included in The Iraqi Cookbook). Anissa Helou’s Levant and Sarah al-Hamad’s Cardamom and Lime are other Mosaic Rooms favourites!

Arab cookbooks

Limited Edition Artworks 

If you are after something special Dia Batal’s limited edition silkscreens could be the perfect gift for a fan of contemporary Arab art. Homage to a Homeland (£550) uses illustrated words to reference pre 1948 Palestinian villages and towns (including those now destroyed). To a Bird… (£550) celebrates birds of the Arab world, both common species and those facing disappearance. Works are unframed. A further selection of our limited editions, starting at £50, can be viewed here. All sales support the artist and the work of The Mosaic Rooms.

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Discover Contemporary Arab Art

Studying contemporary Arab art? Want to discover emerging artists from the region? Newly in stock View From Inside is an indispensable introduction to contemporary Arab photography, video and mixed media art. You may also like Arab Art Histories, Arab Photography Now or Contemporary Art in the Middle East.

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Be Inspired by the Best of Arab Poetry

Keep Arab poetry fans busy over the festive break flipping through 1500 years of Arabic literature with Desert Songs of the Night, and our other poetry classics.

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Stocking Fillers

Looking for some stocking fillers? Check out Dia Batal’s limited edition tote bag (£7.50), and our selection of DVDs covering Arab cinema classics, CDs, exhibition books and more in-store.

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The Mosaic Rooms bookshop can send your purchases internationally. Enquire by email here.

 

 

 

2015 at The Mosaic Rooms

With less than a month to go before our last exhibition of 2015 draws to a close, we invite you to reflect on some of The Mosaic Rooms 2015 highlights – and get a special preview of what’s in store for next year…

Programme Highlights

This year we are delighted to have presented six exhibitions, many featured new work or were the first solo shows by this exciting range of artists. We opened 2015 with David Birkin’s Mouths At The Invisible Event, followed by Hrair Sarkissian’s Imagined Futures; Corinne Silva’s Garden State; I Spy with My Little Eye… a group exhibition guest curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath of Art Reoriented as part of Shubbak; and Dia Batal’s Tracing Landscapes for London Design Festival. Our final exhibition of the year (on show now, until 12 December) is Marwan’s Not Towards Home, But The Horizon.

We hope you found our exhibitions inspiring and intellectually challenging. This year’s projects have certainly involved some of our most ambitious exhibition and artwork productions to-date! These have even extended beyond the gallery walls – did you see a 30ft replica of a U.S. military surveillance blimp hovering above the gallery in February (David Birkin’s installation The Evidence of Absence)?

The Evidence of Absence, David Birkin

The Evidence of Absence, David Birkin

Over the course of 2015 we presented over 50 multidisciplinary events and a number of Learning and Engagement projects – including upcycling workshops with Smallworld Urbanism, two drawing and multimedia workshops with Dia Batal and an ongoing project with Nour Festival of Arts. We loved our sustainable pop-up garden by Smallworld Urbanism (accompanying Garden State) so much we decided to keep it! Our 2015 events programme included supper clubs, talks, book launches, film screenings, live art and music performances – and our first ever dance event.

Highlights included: our sold out symposium Disappearing Cities of the Arab World at British Museum, our Edward W. Said. London Lecture with Daniel Barenboim at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre (watch here), writer Nawal El Saadawi in conversation with Dr Shereen El Feki (watch here), and Raja Shehadeh’s book launch Language of War, Language of Peace.

Edward W. Said London Lecture with Daniel Barenboim & talk with Nawal El Saadawi and Shereen El Feki

Edward W. Said London Lecture with Daniel Barenboim & talk with Nawal El Saadawi and Shereen El Feki

We also engaged in a range of current issues, from the use of drones, to the banned books in Guatanamo bay, to ISIS and the death of the Arab Spring, to the war in Gaza last year.  Check out our recorded lectures page to catchup on what you missed now!

New 2015 Collaborations & Initiatives

2015 included some new exhibition collaborations – Garden State was co-produced with Ffotogallery, Cardiff, and UAL Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC), London College of Communication. I Spy With My Little Eye has toured to Casa Arabe in Madrid and will be on its way to its second venue in Cordoba for 2016. The work Front Line by Hrair Sarkissian, which was produced for his solo show here, was recently shown at Camera Austria in Graz. The Mosaic Rooms and ICA co-presented Dor Guez’s Sick Man Of Europe. We are also pleased to have supported Jumana Manna’s first UK solo show at Chisenhale Gallery. Our exhibitions also formed part of major London festivals including Shubbak, London Festival of Architecture, London Design Festival and Nour. We hope to work with you all again in the near future!

2015 saw The Mosaic Rooms publish our first crowdfunded artist’s book Background by Hrair Sarkissian, which was selected as part of the Art Basel Kickstarter Crowdfunding Initiative. Thank you to all of you who supported this!

Our first limited edition artworks in collaboration with The Mosaic Rooms exhibited artists (available in our bookshop and online here) launched as well. All proceeds from these go to supporting our programme and the artists.

 

Front Line by Hrair Sarkissian, installation at Camera Austria in Graz

Front Line by Hrair Sarkissian, installation at Camera Austria in Graz

Thank you!

Special thanks also go to the following that have helped support our exhibitions and artists this year: ATHR, Dina & Mohamad Ali Zameli, Mohammed Hafiz, Arts Council England, Nour Festival, a/political.

And of course most importantly thank you to all of you, our audience! We look forward to warmly welcoming you back in 2016 to discover new and exciting, as well as familiar names, to engage in new ideas, contemporary issues, and to be challenged and inspired!

Coming up next year…

2016 opens with Suspended Accounts, the latest edition of the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year Award (YAYA14). Showcasing the work of these six emerging Palestinian artists, the public programme will also feature a number of events specially curated by the artists. This will be followed by the first UK presentation of the ‘first chapter’ from Hajra Waheed’s Sea Change – an on-going visual novel and multimedia archive, commenced in 2013, which revolves around the journey and disappearance of nine persons in the name of salvation, a better life or new one. We will be showing Chapter 1 – Character 1: In the Rough. We are also thrilled that the 2016 Edward W. Said London Lecture will be given by Naomi Klein!

Piece from the ‘first chapter’ of Hajra Waheed’s Sea Change series

Piece from the ‘first chapter’ of Hajra Waheed’s Sea Change series

Keep an eye on our website for updates on our 2016 programme…. Until then we wish you all a happy festive season!

Rachael Jarvis

Director, The Mosaic Rooms

The Revolution within the Revolution: Art and Syria Today

Read the latest post from our guest blogger Aimee Dawson, for a broad overview and initial insight for those wanting to begin to know about art in Syria today:

In 2011, a small piece of graffiti demanding the fall of the Syrian regime instigated a vicious crackdown by the government upon its young perpetrators. This graffiti was arguably one of the catalysts that led to the Syrian Revolution, which has since deteriorated into the now four-year-long civil war. It is somewhat fitting then that today, the cultural and artistic responses in the war-torn country have been described as the only positive development of the conflict. Despite the widespread devastation – which has seen over 230,000 people killed, more than 4 million fleeing as refugees, and almost 8 million internally displaced[1] – Syrians have been responding to and documenting their crisis creatively, taking advantage of greater freedom of expression of an essentially collapsed state (compared to the fierce censorship that reigned during Assad’s unchallenged rule). That is not to say that artists are free from the repercussions of their work – many artists have been forced out of work, threatened, beaten, imprisoned, forced to leave the country or, in some cases, killed[2]. In spite of the danger, and beyond the sounds of shelling and bombardments that try to drown them out, many artists both inside and outside the country continue to battle against tyranny to make their voices, and those of the Syrian people, heard.

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‘Bring down Bashar’ graffiti. Courtesy Jan Sefti, https://www.flickr.com/photos/8605011@N02/5614565122

Throwing out the rulebook

Marginal forms of artistic practice are taking on new agency in Syria; the boundary between art, politics and active citizenship is becoming increasingly fluid; and the Internet is providing a platform for expression and dissemination. Popularised art forms include graffiti, community interventions, graphic design, cartoons, comics and puppetry. These forms of visual communication work seamlessly alongside acts of protest and resistance – they are quick, simple and impactful, and carry the message of dissent.

Ali Ferzat is one of Syria’s best-known political cartoonists and has been publishing subtly subversive cartoons for decades in state-run newspapers such as Al Thawra (The Revolution). Since 2011, Ferzat’s cartoons have become less symbolic and more blatant in their derision of the state. A (likely government-organised) attack, in which he was beaten and both of his hands were broken, lead him to flee to Kuwait. He continues to produce images, whilst many more cartoonists and comic artists have risen to prominence. Comic4Syria are a group of artists who publish comics on their Facebook page that respond to the brutality of state-sponsored groups and tell everyday stories of resistance. Their comic strips act as a vent for the frustrations of the local public and offers insight for foreign audiences, for whom they write in English, into the conflict on the ground.

Comic4Syria – Chase. https://informationactivism.org/en/stories/minnesotascreening

Comic4Syria – Chase. https://informationactivism.org/en/stories/minnesotascreening

Increasingly, online platforms and social media have played a large role in making such art visible, which, considering the rapidly displaced population and growth of international solidarity, is an important tool for Syrian resistance. Many groups and collectives are using the Internet to disseminate their works and create a virtual community of support. Groups such as the Alshaab alsori aref tarekh (The Syrian People Know Their Way) collective produce striking posters and banners that can be downloaded and printed from social media sites to be used anywhere in the world[3], and which were employed heavily in protests throughout Syria in 2011. Another initiative, Art and Freedom (arte.liberte.syrie), uses a Facebook page as a symbolic artistic space for solidarity, allowing artists to post their work online in exchange for signing their names to show their support for the revolution.

Satire: dark humour for dark times

Alongside these artistic forms, satire emerges as one of the central threads running through the art being produced in and about Syria today[4]. Satire and mockery have long been a part of the cultural creativity in the country, as can be seen in the poems and plays of Mohammed Al-Maghout in the 1970s[5] and Ali Ferzat’s early anti-regime cartoons. One anonymous Syrian communication expert argues that the success and potency of satire in art lies in its ability to catch the regime and military off-guard: ‘They know how to play when arms are involved, but do not know how to react to mash-ups, parodies and irony’[6]. For the artists and citizens themselves, such art also acts as a reprise from the horrors and atrocities of daily life and as a space where people can feel a sense of control and autonomy. A member of Masasit Mati also argues that people need to ‘laugh and enjoy things’ in order to exist and that this retained sense of humour by the Syrians ‘shows us their strength and their determination to not just see themselves as victims’[7].

Top Goon puppets, by Masasit Mati. http://www.masasitmati.org

Top Goon puppets, by Masasit Mati. http://www.masasitmati.org

Masasit Mati is an anonymous art collective who use puppetry to ridicule both state and oppositional groups, which has risen to prominence as one of the most internationally popular creative enterprises to come out of the Syrian Revolution. The collective, who use the traditional Syrian art of puppetry, have now released three series of their satirical puppet videos Top Goon and have been viewed by thousands on their Facebook and YouTube sites. In 2013, the group took to the Syrian streets to bring puppetry back to the people, saying that despite the importance of the Internet in their art and message, they don’t want to be disconnected from the public on the ground. Unfortunately, increased shelling and attacks have forced them back into the confines of the digital world.

Satire has also taken on a performative guise in protests that adopt artistic elements. Such interventions include an incident where the seven main fountains of Damascus were dyed red, to represent the state’s killing of thousands of civilians. One of the fountains is located directly in front of Syria’s intelligence service headquarters; the dramatic red water symbolised both the state’s cruelty and their weakness, despite their military power, to prevent such actions.

Red fountains in Damascus. http://www.everydayrebellion.net/blood-fountains-against-the-civil-war-2/

Red fountains in Damascus. http://www.everydayrebellion.net/blood-fountains-against-the-civil-war-2/

Similarly, activist Ahmed Zaino released hundreds of ping-pong balls featuring the word hurriyah (Arabic for ‘freedom’) into the streets of Damascus, after which security forces helplessly chased, with some balls rolling into the grounds of Bashar al-Assad’s palace[8]. At times when the security forces attempted to prevent such interventions, artists and activists have responded imaginatively – when regime checkpoints prevented people from demonstrating around the infamous Clock Tower Square in Homs, people created their own miniature clock towers and protested around them instead.[9] These acts of creative subversion construct a physical space that the protestors can inhabit as well as highlighting glimmers of state weakness and futility.

The artistic production coming from and about Syria is monumental in all meanings of the word – in quantity, scope, and form but also in courage and resilience. The cultural outpouring since the 2011 revolution has created a legacy that cannot be erased as easily as the bombed-out cities and contested territories of Syria itself. What started as a political revolution has created a cultural revolution of sorts – a space that allows for greater freedom of expression and an urgent and constant topic of inspiration.

For more information on the arts and culture of Syria see: Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, eds. Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen and Nawara Mahfoud (London: Saqi Books, 2014).

Aimee Dawson is a London-based writer and blogger on contemporary art from the Middle East and North Africa. She studied Arabic and Middle East Studies at the University of Exeter and spent a year living and studying in Cairo and Fez. She was the writer-in-residence for Shubbak Festival 2015, is a guest blogger for Nour Festival of Arts 2015, is the Editorial Assistant at Ibraaz.org, and the Editorial Intern at The Arts Newspaper. She has recently completed her Masters in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. @amldawson

[1] ‘Syria’s Artists: Between Freedom and Tyranny’, The Syrian Observer, 24 June 2015, http://syrianobserver.com/EN/Features/29391/Syria_Artists_Between_Freedom_Tyranny
[2] Ibid.
[3] Malu Halasa, ‘Art of Resistance’, Index on Censorship, September 2012, 41:3, pp. 141-152.
[4] Malu Halasa (ed.), Culture in Definance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art, and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria (Amsterdam: Prince Claus Fund Gallery, 2012), http://www.princeclausfund.org/files/docs/2012%20Culture%20in%20Defiance.pdf
[5] Eyad N. Al-Samman, ‘Mohammed Ahmed Al-Maghout, the Syrian poet with a satiric pen’, The Yemen Times, 2009 http://www.arabworldbooks.com/Readers2009/articles/maghut_alsamman.htm
[6] Donatella Della Ratta, ‘Irony, Satire, and Humor in the Battle for Syria’, Muftah, 23 February 2012, http://muftah.org/irony-satire-and-humor-in-the-battle-for-syria/#.Vic8XxArJ0t
[7] Aimee Dawson, ‘Holding up a Mirror to the International Community: An Interview with Masasit Mati of Top Goon’, Shubbak Festival blog, 15 July 2015, http://www.shubbak.co.uk/holding-up-a-mirror-to-the-international-community-an-interview-with-massasit-mati-of-top-goon/
[8] ‘Syrian Activist Ahmed Fights With Ping Pong Balls’, Everyday Rebellion, http://www.everydayrebellion.net/tag/ahmed-zaino/
[9] Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline, eds. Malu Halasa, Zaher Omareen and Nawara Mahfoud (London: Saqi Books, 2014).

News: Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour to present work at The Mosaic Rooms in 2016

Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour is busy. She is currently working away on an exciting new film project which will be shown at her first London solo exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms in May 2016.

In the Future, They Ate From the Finest Porcelain is a science fiction short film inspired by the politicised archaeology carried out in present day Israel/Palestine. Produced in a mixture of colour and black/white it combines live motion, CGI and archival photographs to explore the role of myth and fiction for fact, history and national identity.

The film, which will be approximately 28 minutes long, is in production at the moment, and the artist has just finished the shoot. We thought we’d share some behind the scenes shots:

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Born in Jerusalem, Larissa Sansour studied Fine Art in Copenhagen, London and New York. Her work is interdisciplinary, immersed in the current political dialogue and utilises video, photography, installation and sculpture. She has shown work at the Istanbul and Liverpool biennials and at Tate Modern, London; Brooklyn Museum, NYC and Centre Pompidou, Paris, among others.

The Mosaic Rooms is delighted to be one of the supporters of this ambitious film project. We will be posting behind the scenes updates here as the project develops – so make sure to check back!

 

Dia Batal gives us a sneak peek of her upcoming exhibition…

Can you briefly introduce yourself?

I am a London based designer / artist. The multidisciplinary work I produce is context specific and audiences are often able to engage with it. I use Arabic language and text to create artworks that echo cultural and contemporary concerns into our urban public and private spaces. You can see some examples of my existing work here.

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Dia Batal

How did you come up with the idea for your upcoming Mosaic Rooms show Tracing Landscapes – what is the meaning behind the title?

The first piece I started working on for the show was a print based on the names of Palestinian towns and villages in Palestine pre 1948. As this work progressed, and I started working on other pieces, it became clear that what I was doing was literally tracing over landscapes that have been altered, including people, narratives and places. That’s how the name came about. We had a few options but we thought this one worked best.

Many of the works in ‘ Tracing Landscapes’ are new. Can you give us a preview of what will be included… or a sneak peek of a piece you are currently working on? 

One of the main pieces is an installation entitled Playing on the Beach is a Dangerous Course. it is an attempt to create an ephemeral memorial for children killed in the attack on Gaza last year (2014). I have used the name of 30 children, embroidered on sheer fabric, to create this ‘mourning space’ .

Detail from 'Playing on the Beach is a Dangerous Course'

Detail from ‘Playing on the beach is a dangerous course’

There are also two pieces in metal which look at ideas of memory and belonging, I have used the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish for these.

I Come from there and I Remember can be rotated to direct to a place, borrowing from navigational tools.

'I come from there' under construction

‘I come from there’ under construction

There’s an animation that I’ve been working on with Maya Chami, in which we go over recordings of my Palestinian grandmother’s journey when she was forced to leave Palestine in 1948. We are using drawings and text to do so.

Other pieces include silkscreen prints on paper, and drawings on paper.

You use the traditional art of Arabic calligraphy as the basis for many of your designs. Can you tell us why it inspires/interests you?

My mother (Mona Saudi) is an artist and sculptor who used poetry in her work, and my father (Hasan Al Batal) is a journalist who writes political columns, in addition to this I was surrounded by the works of people like Kamal Bullata and Samir El Sayegh and so growing up I was very much influenced by my surroundings and grew up to appreciate Arabic calligraphy.

I was also interested in the idea of using this ancient Arab and Islamic art of using text on objects, in architecture and public space. So I tried to modernize this using contemporary techniques and materials. I try to tell stories by doing so, mostly stories which echo contemporary social and political concerns.

Kun man anta, Dia Batal

Kun man anta, Dia Batal

Apart from your Mosaic Rooms show, are you planning/working on any other projects right now? Where should we look out for your work next?

I have some private commissions that I’ll be working on after the show. And I’ve been invited to take part in the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennale in 2016. And a show at the Jacaranda images in 2016 too.

Dia Batal’s Tracing Landscapes exhibition will be on show at The Mosaic Rooms 9 – 27 September 2015. Entry is free. Find out more here.

Dia Batal Donates A Work To Our Art Collection!

We are delighted to announce that a new work has been added to the A.M. Qattan Foundation ‘Nomad’ Art Collection! Spatial designer Dia Batal has generously donated Waw: A Seat For The Collective.

Dia uses Arabic calligraphy to transform text into objects, which seek to engage audiences in contemporary issues of identity and belonging. ‘Waw’ is the Arabic letter used to conjugate for the collective. It also means ‘and’. Depending on the position of the seated, the piece becomes a social space that suggests possible encounters, or not…

'Waw: A Seat For The Collective.’ Translations Collection. Powder coated steel, limited edition of 7

‘Waw: A Seat For The Collective.’ Translations Collection. Powder coated steel, limited edition of 7

The donation comes ahead of Dia’s September Design Week’ solo exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms. Sign up to our newsletter here, to be the first to hear news about the show.

Q&A with artist Corinne Silva

Q1/ You are currently exhibiting your solo show Garden State at The Mosaic Rooms, can you tell us briefly about what inspired it and what it includes?

The show consists of two photographic room installations of works made in Israel/Palestine; Wounded is made up of nine photographs suspended from the ceiling with a sound installation, and Gardening the Suburbs is a photographic wall installation of 110 pictures, which wraps the whole of the main gallery.

Through both works, I look at the politics of gardening and cultivation. I was interested in exploring ways in which a civilian occupation is made manifest through the shaping of the landscape, through suburban gardening, and the planting of forests and designation of National Parks.

For Gardening the Suburbs I made photographs of public and private gardens in twenty-two different Israeli settlements. The wall installation loosely maps the way the settlements move inland from the coastal areas, around the Green Line and into the West Bank. The pictures are clustered according to geographical location.

I am interested in what gardens mean, what they might represent. Gardens help to ‘normalise’ these settlements. They also mean that people intend to stay; they are literally putting down roots. So gardens are a useful tool for the State to take land and hold onto it. What’s more, in the imagination, a house and garden is rarely seen as a violent weapon of occupation.

Gardening The Suburbs (2014), Corinne Silva. Garden State at The Mosaic Rooms. Photo Andy Stagg

Gardening The Suburbs (2014), Corinne Silva. Photo Andy Stagg

Q2/ What do you hope viewers will take away from the work in the show?

I don’t allow the viewer to get a wider sense of each place in the photographs. I encourage the viewer to imagine what lies beyond, behind, around. I also offer some cracks and fissures and breaks; pictures where rocks don’t properly join with brickwork, for example. The façade of the Israeli State is not seamless, and I want to think about the potential for future change in this place. If these places were built, and are allowed to continue to exist, it is because the Israeli State narrative is a powerful one that has taken hold of people’s imaginations. Places, landscapes, exist in the imagination before they exist materially. If the imagination is employed so powerfully to construct these places, how might it be used to deconstruct them.

The Wounded work also connects to my interest in cycles of occupation, colonisation and decolonisation. Two weeks before I arrived in Israel/Palestine in 2010, a forest fire in the Carmel Forest in the north, above Haifa, had destroyed acres of forest and taken the lives of a dozen people. For the installation, the large-scale photographs of the burnt trees are suspended from the ceiling throughout the room, hung at human height: you encounter them in a very physical way. The sound throughout the space is from a recording I made when I returned to the forest three years after the fire. I discovered that the trees planted by the State, largely oak and pine, had not been replaced. Instead the flora that was there before the planted forest had been allowed to grow. This foliage was now waist high, and I made a sound recording of me walking, stumbling, dragging myself through this new/old plant life.

Wounded (2013), Corinne Silva. Garden State at The Mosaic Rooms. Photo Andy Stagg

Wounded (2013), Corinne Silva. Garden State at The Mosaic Rooms. Photo Andy Stagg

Q3/ What are you working on right now? Do you have any further exhibitions planned?

I am showing Imported Landscapes in a group show at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, which opens at the end of May and I have just got back from a month-long residency with AADK in Murcia, Spain. I made a number of walks in the landscape, and I’ll be developing work from that over the coming months, again looking at the politics of cultivation as well as walking practices.

Rocks and Fortresses is my other work in Spain, which I’ll be continuing in Egypt later this year. I am making photographs of rocks and fortresses along the Mediterranean coastlines. In each location, I gather earth or rock from the place I make the photograph and use this to make pigments. This I use to paint out the skies of the black and white photographs I make. The sky becomes the earth, and the photographs alongside one another reveal the reds, oranges and yellows of these connected landscapes. By painting out the skies I’m referencing early photographic processes, such as paper negatives, where the skies would be painted with black gouache.  This is a way for me to think about the role landscape photography has had – since its inception – in empire building. And of course, the Mediterranean has been the site of empire after empire, since the time of the Phoenecians. Fortresses for me represent separation, be that an individual’s desire to lock oneself away in a gated community, or military or nation state boundary making. Geological formations are the element that binds these landscapes; they are the connecting points.

Finally, later this year The Mosaic Rooms and Ffotogallery are publishing my forthcoming book, Garden State, with contributions by Eyal Weizman and Val Williams.

Garden State will be on show at The Mosaic Rooms until 20 June 2015. Entry free. Plan your visit here.

See it now at The Mosaic Rooms… Front Line

Front Line (2007) are a series of previously unseen photographs by Hrair Sarkissian which draw on the artist’s own Armenian identity to contemplate the uneasy predicament of a people and place with an unknown political destiny.

Front Line (2007), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

Front Line (2007), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

Frontline_2007 Hrair Sarkissian. Image courtesy of Kalfayan Galleries

Selection of images from Frontline (2007) Hrair Sarkissian. Images courtesy of Kalfayan Galleries

They take as their subject the war-torn enclave between Armenia and Azerbaijan – the self-proclaimed independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. Throughout the centuries the claims over this territory have shifted, the borders been mapped and remapped, yet the repression of the region’s indigenous Armenians has persisted. Today, over a million of its Azeri and Armenian inhabitants remain displaced; last year saw some of the worst clashes for a decade, and Western powers are still trying to negotiate a long-term solution.

Created in 2007, the photographs depict 12 landscapes and 17 portraits of those who fought during the 1988-1994 war, displayed as a powerful installation. Through a sense of isolation, estrangement and haunting, the works raise questions about the price of war and the contradictions inherent within struggles for national independence.

“There are many firsts for Sarkissian in this work: it is the first time he has shown this series; his first body of work that includes direct portraits; and the first time he has moved away from traditional photographic display into installation. The form of the installation is reminiscent of tombs or a memorial, though those portrayed are still alive. A deeply poignant effect is created when the viewer enters the rooms and encounters and negotiates all seventeen suspended gazes looking back at them. This coupled with the seemingly vast empty spaces of the war torn landscapes portrayed in the large-scale photographs in the next room showcase the incredible strength of the artists work.”

Selection of images from Frontline (2007), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

Selection of images from Frontline (2007), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

Front Line (2007) form part of Hrair Sarkissian’s first UK solo exhibition Imagined Futures, on show at The Mosaic Rooms 13/03/15—25/04/15, entry free. Plan your visit here

 

Now Available: Limited Editions from our Artists

The Mosaic Rooms collaborate with some of today’s most exciting artists, and we are now making their work available for you to own! This new project will see us collaborate with a selection of our current artists to commission and produce striking and affordable limited editions to accompany their exhibitions with us. The project launched this month, with a series of limited edition postcards by Hrair Sarkissian. These postcards were produced from his award winning Background series on the occasion of and in celebration of the publication of his book on the same series, produced by The Mosaic Rooms.  With prices ranging from £50-250 they include a selection of six images from the series, including the below:

Background limited ed. postcards, Hrair Sarkissian

Background limited ed. postcards, Hrair Sarkissian

Browse our current selection of limited editions here.

We are now working with photographer Corinne Silva, whose exhibition Garden State opens with us in May, and look forward to updating you soon on her special edition work!

Sales proceeds go straight back into supporting the work of The Mosaic Rooms and the artists.

Syrian filmmaker Liwaa Yazji discusses the dangers and inspirations she encountered whilst shooting her first documentary

“This ethical issue was crucial in the process of the project. It was such a dangerous thing for us all – especially inside Syria where I was shooting in areas which were under the regime’s control. This could have resulted in detention and imprisonment for any one of us.”

Q1/ Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us why you became interested in working in film?

I am a Syrian filmmaker born in Moscow. I studied Theater Studies in Damascus, Syria and then went on to work in the fields of theater dramaturgy, playwriting, and screen writing. In 2009 I acted in ‘September Rain,’ a feature film by Syrian director Abdullatif Abdulhamid. Then in 2011 I went on to work as assistant director in ‘Windows of the Soul,’ a docudrama directed by Allyth Hajjo and Ammar Alani.

I published my first play ‘Here in the Park’ in 2012, and in 2013 I wrote the screen play of the TV drama series ‘The Brothers.’ Last year I published my first poetry book in Beirut, entitled ‘In Peace, we leave home,’ and a translation of Edward Bond`s play ‘Saved’ in Arabic. I also directed my first documentary film ‘Haunted’ in 2014, which will be screening at The Mosaic Rooms 22 April.

I am also a board member of Ettijahat-Independent Culture

Still from Haunted

Still from Haunted

Q2/ Your documentary Haunted (Maskoon) is about the Syrian people’s relationship with their homes during the war, what inspired you to make a film on this subject? 

It started as a personal concern; the war was crawling to Damascus, the capital was full of internal refugees from other cities hit by its destruction. Wherever you went, whomever you spoke to, there was only one question: what do we do?

It was something we were not able to deny: the war was coming and we had to have an answer to the question: what do we do next? When our houses are destroyed what is left for us? Do we stay or do we leave? Do we stay until the last minute, or take the decision to leave before? We had seen what was happening in other cities, and we knew we were not excluded from the same destiny; doomed to the same fate sooner or later.

The issue of “home” was an issue for all of us – family, relatives, friends, refugees around me and those abroad in camps. There were dozens of photos and videos of wreckages and ruins on TVs, websites and mobile correspondence, haunting us every day.

So that is how I started thinking of the film; as a way to “archive” the sad, surreal and absurd stories of people abandoning their history, memories, identity and life – to throw themselves into the unknown in most cases. It started as an archive, to record the different conversations about, and variety of experiences of, the same situation. The majority of those who had to leave their houses did not even have the luxury to ask such questions, or to look for answers… they just found themselves out in the void running for their lives.

Still from Haunted

Still from Haunted

Q3/ For your documentary you conducted a series of interviews with people who had fled Syria, can you tell us about the process you went through to find interviewees and about any unexpected stories you uncovered in the process?

I spent a long period scouting before shooting, during this time I tried to archive and collect as many stories as I could, whether told orally or to the camera. That scouting period took place in Syria at first, later I realized that I needed to follow the journey of those stories to one of the refugees hosting countries: I chose Lebanon. There I scouted in various areas hosting Syrian refugee communities.

Another important factor I have to mention is the risk we were all taking in doing these interviews and shooting. This ethical issue was crucial in the process of the project. It was such a dangerous thing for us all – especially inside Syria where I was shooting in areas which were under the regime`s control. This could have resulted in detention and imprisonment for any one of us.

Even in the refugee camps it was so difficult to shoot due to the problems the hosting communities could cause if the refugees started to talk about how bad the conditions they were living in were! Or, the hosting communities were against the Syrian revolution altogether and allied against them.

Some of the stories I encountered during shooting were really surreal and unexpected. I came across an elderly couple who did not want to leave their house for the Free Army snipers, and so decided to live with them, sharing the same house! I also used to go back to film certain families only to find that they had already fled!

Whilst talking to the people who had already fled their homes I noticed that they all regretted one thing most: that they had not brought photographs with them. Photographs to register life as it was, the life they had left behind, to tell new generations about the old, dead or disappearing ones, or to tell their children about how they lived and who they were before. I used to tell people who were still in their houses and thinking of leaving ‘take photographs’.

The lady in the film living in Chatila Camp in Lebanon had to change her house while we were shooting and that was really unexpected and so important for the film.

Another unexpected thing also happened whilst I was shooting on the international road between Syria and Lebanon. It was highly forbidden to film there so I decided to try and film it alone. I was filming at the same time as driving the car. The result was that I had a bad car accident that was all captured on film!

 

Book now to see Haunted, Liwaa Yazji’s  first feature documentary film, screening at The Mosaic Rooms 22 April 2015.

Celebrating the Life & Achievements of Leila Darwish Al-Miqdadi Al-Qattan

Leila Darwish Al_Miqdadi Al_Qattan

It was with deep regret that the A.M. Qattan Foundation and The Mosaic Rooms mourned the passing, on Tuesday 27 January 2015, of one of the most prominent women in philanthropy and social enterprise in Palestine and the Arab World, Leila Darwish Al-Miqdadi Al-Qattan.

Leila, member of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation, was born in Mosul, Iraq, to the notable Palestinian educator Darwish Al-Miqdadi, and was forced to move repeatedly, like many Palestinians, first to Jerusalem, then Damascus and Beirut. She eventually settled in Kuwait, where she worked in education and met her future husband, Abdel Mohsin Al-Qattan.

In 1963, the family moved to Beirut, where she worked with a group of Lebanese and Palestinian women to revive Palestinian embroidery in the refugee camps. She also participated in the establishment of The Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps (still operational today) as well as the A.M. Qattan Foundation. She supported many cultural and charitable projects in Palestine, notably the Palestinian Museum.

Leila was passionate about the arts, particularly music, and was a generous supporter of all forms of artistic expression. She also played a critical role in shaping the Foundation’s cultural programme. Her work will remain a major milestone in humanitarian and community work in Palestine.

See it now at The Mosaic Rooms… Homesick

Pop down to The Mosaic Rooms by the 25 March and you will be able to see the latest video work by 2013 Abraaj Group Art Prize winning artist Hrair Sarkissian.

This new two-channel video installation, entitled Homesick (2014), depicts the destruction of an architecturally precise 1:30 scaled replica of the artist’s parents’ home in Damascus.

Homesick (2014), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

Homesick (2014), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

On one screen an eleven-minute long time-lapsed silent video presents the demolition of the model. The source of its destruction is not shown, the building seems to slowly collapse without cause. Alongside this, a second eight-minute long video shows Sarkissian wielding a sledgehammer. The lens focuses on the artist’s face and torso, the target of his blows is not presented.

Homesick (2014), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

Homesick (2014), Hrair Sarkissian. Photo Andy Stagg

Far more than just a house, this replica building represents a container for Sarkissian’s memories, and a place for his family’s collective identity. Through Homesick Sarkissian constructs a story that, in the current situation in Syria, could very well take place. He contemplates consequences. What does it mean to expect the worst? Can we fast-forward the present, acknowledge loss and begin reshaping a collapsed history, even before the event?

“An incredibly resonant and haunting work, this is a deeply personal projection of an individual’s fear of both the threat of the present and a potential past and their persistent attempts to destroy it. In witnessing this intimate process the viewer engages and participates in this emotive act of simultaneously envisioning and deconstructing. It is a work that will remain with you.” Rachael Jarvis, Director, The Mosaic Rooms

Stills from Homesick (2014), Hrair Sarkissian. Images courtesy of the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Greece

Stills from Homesick (2014), Hrair Sarkissian. Images courtesy of the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Greece

Homesick (2014) forms part of Hrair Sarkissian’s first UK solo exhibition Imagined Futures, on show at The Mosaic Rooms until 25 March 2015, entry free. Plan your visit here

Coming Soon! Hrair Sarkissian’s Book Background

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We are delighted to announce that the final copy of Hrair Sarkissian’s artist book, Background, has been approved and sent to print!

We have been working hard with the artist, designers and printers and are very excited to finally be able to share the project with you. The publication is rich in full colour images of the artist’s Background (2013) photographic series and it includes an introduction by international curator Murtaza Vali in both English and Arabic.

The book will be ready in time for Sarkissian’s first UK solo exhibition, Imagined Futures, opening at The Mosaic Rooms soon.

Join us for this special book launch, which will take place 12pm Saturday 14th March, during Hrair’s artists talk with Tate Modern curator Shoair Mavlian.

Places are limited, RSVP now HERE.

 

David Birkin discusses his ‘Severe Clear’ performances in the skies above New York … and the suspected CIA response

“…barely a week after the phrase appeared across the New York City skyline, the CIA officially launched into the Twittersphere with its maiden message: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.” A coincidence? Perhaps. A sly public relations move? Most definitely.”

This past year, I staged two public performances in New York. The first involved skywriting the words “EXISTENCE OR NONEXISTENCE” above Manhattan on Memorial Day weekend. The second, on Veterans Day, saw an aeroplane circle the Statue of Liberty’s torch towing a banner that read “THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT”.

Shadow of a Doubt (2014), Severe Clear, David Birkin

Shadow of a Doubt (2014), Severe Clear, David Birkin

These unannounced and seemingly spontaneous events were part of a project called Severe Clear. It was inspired by a letter the CIA sent the American Civil Liberties Union rejecting their Freedom of Information Act request for documents relating to the U.S. government’s classified drone program. The letter states that the agency can “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence” of records responsive to the request.

The use of unmanned aircraft by the Pentagon is official and constitutes a key component in the military’s increasingly automated arsenal. But their use by the CIA for the purposes of targeted assassination is unofficial, despite widespread reporting in the press as a result of White House-sanctioned leaks. This classified program remains unconstrained by judicial or congressional oversight, even in such extreme cases as the targeting of American citizens — like Anwar al-Awlaki, along with his 16 year old Colorado-born son and 17 year old cousin. Yet because of a tautological redefinition of the term “combatant” to include all military-age males in the vicinity of a strike zone (unless explicit intelligence posthumously proves them innocent), many such civilian casualties go uncounted.
If truth is one of the first casualties of war, so is the vocabulary that sustains it. As Orwell states in his essay Politics and the English Language, “…political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” My interest lies in the wording of the CIA’s rejection letter: a linguistic somersault that takes legislative precision and spins it into a kind of esoteric, existential rhetoric. Like a line from Kafka composed in pure bureaucratic prose, it tells us, in the most precise terms, nothing, except that the absence of affirmation does not imply it exists. Whatever “it” may be.

Severe Clear (2014) David Birkin

Severe Clear (2014) David Birkin

The act of decontextualizing this phrase, and transplanting it from a legal document into something as ethereal and ephemeral as clouds in the sky, opens it up to multiple readings. Seen from below, some passers-by construed the words as a theological proposition, while others assumed it to be a meditation on the existence of UFOs: a not entirely inappropriate response considering the rapid proliferation of drones populating our skies over the past decade. These varied and often fantastical interpretations underscore the nebulous nature of the government’s response. The realisation that this was in fact carefully worded legalese came as a surprise to many.

Severe Clear, David Birkin

‘Severe Clear’ performance social media reactions

Memorial Day and Veterans Day are public holidays that commemorate the lives of Americans who have died or served during wartime. They are resonant dates given the implications of drone warfare, which amount to a reduction in the number of U.S. casualties, contrasting with a steady creep in the number of undocumented casualties in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The phrase “shadow of a doubt” refers to an impossible burden of proof. In civilian courts, juries are asked to convict or acquit on the grounds of “reasonable doubt”, since it is all but impossible to prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt. As such, it signifies an unattainable degree of truth and a jurisprudential ideal. It also contrasts sharply with the scant evidence used to authorise so-called “signature strikes”, in which suspects need not be identified at all, but may be targeted based on ostensibly suspicious patterns of behaviour alone. The existence or nonexistence of “collateral damage” is thus increasingly becoming a subject of contestation.

On the day of the skywriting, I went to the summit of the Empire State Building and took a photograph, facing south toward the World Trade Center’s new Freedom Tower. This tension between the social, economic and ideological conceptions of freedom and empire is, for me, an important part of the work. In addition to my own documentation, word of the event spread across social media thanks to the number of people who posted images online, and a supportive tweet from the actor and political commentator Stephen Fry to his seven million followers.

Then, barely a week after the phrase appeared across the New York City skyline, the CIA officially launched into the Twittersphere with its maiden message: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

A coincidence? Perhaps. A sly public relations move? Most definitely. Humour and hubris make pernicious bedfellows.

David Birkin, 19 February 2015

David Birkin’s first public solo exhibition Mouths At The Invisible Event is on show at The Mosaic Rooms until 1 March 2015. Plan your visit here.

David Birkin: 'Mouths A The Invisible Event' exhibition. Photo Andy Stagg

David Birkin: ‘Mouths A The Invisible Event’ exhibition. Photo Andy Stagg

I Was So Entranced Seeing That I Did Not Think About The Sight

David Birkin’s work  I Was So Entranced Seeing That I Did Not Think About The Sight (2012) takes its title from Helen Keller’s description of the New York skyline atop the Empire State Building. Born in 1880, Keller, an American author, political activist and lecturer, was the first deafblind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree.

I Was So Entranced Seeing That I Did Not Think About The Sight (2012). Photographer Andy Stagg

I Was So Entranced Seeing That I Did Not Think About The Sight (2012). Photographer Andy Stagg

The work is formed from a sheet of gelatin silver photographic paper which was exposed to the light while standing on the spot Keller stood and facing south toward the World Trade Center. After processing, it was embossed with a braille translation of her description. Framed without glass, the resulting Malevich-black photogram constitutes an image that is as tactile as it is invisible, forming a lyrical response to the dialectics of looking and seeing, visibility and vision.

Helen Keller's letter

Helen Keller’s letter

The work forms part of Mouths At The Invisible Event, David Birkin’s first public solo show. Entry to the exhibition is FREE. On show until 28 February 2015, plan your visit here.

Mouths At The Invisible Event. Photograph Andy Stagg

‘Mouths At The Invisible Event’ exhibition. Photograph Andy Stagg

 

 

 

Progress Update: Background, Our Artists Book Project With Hrair Sarkissian

Back in November 2014, we were delighted to announce the selection of our art book project Background as one of a small number of ‘outstanding non-commercial art projects’ to be showcased as part of the new Art Basel Crowdfunding Initiative in partnership with Kickstarter.

Here’s an update on our progress with the project so far…

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With the help of our generous supporters the project was successfully funded, with final donations adding up to a fantastic £14,097, well over our minimum project budget of £8,000!

Hrair Sarkissian limited edition postcard prints

Limited edition postcards of Hrair’s prints have now been produced and are winging their way to the pledgers who selected them.

production_1Work on the publication is now well underway and we’re on target to have it ready in time for Hrair’s first UK solo exhibition, opening at The Mosaic Rooms in March 2015.

Watch this space for further updates!

 

 

2014 at The Mosaic Rooms

Our last exhibition of 2014 drew to a close on Saturday with a powerful performance from our learning and engagement project with Phakama and a celebratory closing party and book launch with Nadia and Timo Kaabi-Linke!

Three Percent, Learning & Engagement Project

Whilst our programme remains quiet over December we will happily reflect on the many exhibitions, events, new and old collaborators and participants we have hosted over this year. Over the last twelve months we have had the pleasure of presenting five exhibitions and over 50 multidisciplinary events to our wonderful audiences, alongside two community learning and engagement projects.  We hope you have enjoyed them, from Ilan Pappe discussing The Idea of Israel, Saadi Youssef reading from his latest poetry collection, Anissa Helou cooking you a feast at our special supper club series, live readings from emerging Arab playwrights, to Raja Shehadeh’s sold out 2014 Edward W Said London Lecture, amongst other highlights! For any of  who you missed or simply want to enjoy again please visit our Recorded Lectures or Blog online.

Anissa H- Supper Club

 

In 2014 it has been our pleasure to work with artists and external curators to develop new work and commissions especially for The Mosaic Rooms for the first time. This includes Mogadishu: Lost Moderns by Rashid Ali and Andrew Cross, the first exhibition to explore Mogadishu through its architecture; a collaboration with aria that saw the first London group show of six contemporary Algerian artists; launching our first open call exhibition, My Sister Who Travels curated by Martina Caruso; and of course Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s acclaimed first UK solo exhibition featuring new works that responded directly to the history of our building. If you didn’t get the chance to see any of this year’s exhibitions you can still access them online, and also through our limited edition exhibition publications, available in our bookshop.

NKL
Mog

We are delighted to end the year with the recent selection of our art book project Background by Hrair Sarkissian as one of a small number of ‘outstanding non-commercial art projects’ to be showcased as part of Art Basel’s new Kickstarter Crowdfunding Initiative. Don’t forget you can still support the project here until the 13th December 2014!

Special thanks also go to the following organisations that have helped support our programme this year: Arts Council England, Nour Festival, Goethe Insitut and Iraqi Cultural Centre. Also to our event partners The British Museum, Delfina Foundation, Free Word Centre, Goethe Insitut, Goldsmiths University of London, ICA, Ikon Gallery, Iniva, Leighton House, Literature Across Frontiers, Sandpit Productions, amongst others.  We hope to work with you all again in the near future!

And of course most importantly thank you to all of you, our audience! We look forward to warmly welcoming you back in 2015 to discover new and exciting as well as familiar names, to engage in new ideas, to be challenged and inspired! 2015 opens with the exhibition Mouths at the Invisible Event by David Birkin and an accompanying highly topical programme of events. This will be followed by our first institutional collaboration with the ICA, presenting a new exhibition by Dor Guez, The Sick Man of Europe in February.  Keep an eye on our website for updates on our 2015 programme…. Until then we wish you all a joyous festive season!

 

Rachael Jarvis

Head Curator, The Mosaic Rooms

What’s The Inspiration Behind Our New Show? Find Out In This Q&A With Artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 09.56.03

Q1/ Your first UK solo exhibition – The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls – will be opening at The Mosaic Rooms 10 October. Can you tell us a bit about the show? 

The exhibition is divided in two parts that, of course, belong together. The Future Rewound consists of works that reflect on contemporary means of control – observation, finance, housing/prison, neglecting the past. The Cabinet of Souls instead deals with history as the loss of a past – in the form of memories, identities, hurt and sorrow. The two themes developed during our research about the exhibition space, Tower House – now the home of The Mosaic Rooms. We wanted to know the history of the building. How was it used before it became a public space? Who lived within its walls? These questions derived from the initial inspiration that a place could still be occupied by its former tenants – not necessarily in a ghostly way, but in terms of legacy. This became the common theme of both parts of the exhibition, yet in a more general sense of a contemporary life that is “haunted” by its history.

Q2/ You uncovered some very interesting stories relating to The Mosaic Rooms’ history, and the history of the local area, during your research for the show.  Can you share some of these with us and give us a brief descriptions of the new works it inspired? 

I have learned very much about the history of Tower House. It was the former home of Imre Kiralfy, showman, dancer, composer and impresario, who co-founded London Exhibition Ltd., and who was responsible for many of the Colonial exhibitions held at Earls Court Exhibition Centre, which is close to The Mosaic Rooms today. It was clear to me that the exhibition in the former premises of this man had to reappropriate the past of the building. I felt somehow haunted by it and wanted to bring it back to the present day. The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls is the outcome of this feeling of being haunted by the past of a place.

The Mosaic Rooms Grand Room

Archival image of The Mosaic Rooms Grand Room, Victoria era.

Q3/ You have a number of other shows coming up – tell us when and where we can see them?

The next solo exhibition will be in Lisbon, Portugal, in January 2015 at Cristina Guerra gallery and then another solo in March at Lawrie Shabibi gallery in Dubai, UAE. Both gallery exhibitions will premier new works.

The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls will be on show at The Mosaic Rooms 10 October to 29 November 2014. Plan your visit here.

 

Perspectives (Bank Junction, London) – A new work by Nadia Kaabi-Linke

Nadia Kaabi-Linke spent a weekend in September drawing on the streets of London’s financial district, the views captured by the artist formed the premise for a new work entitled Perspectives (Bank Junction, London). The work refers to the recent financial crisis in London and challenges the omnipotent influence of capitalism and is part of our exhibition, The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls.

nadia

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Perspectives (Bank Junction, London) will be on show at The Mosaic Rooms as part of Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s exhibition, The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls, from 10 October to 29 November 2014.

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