Mailing List

Get free tickets and find out about our new events
* = required field


Interviews with exhibiting artists, event participants and leading figures from a wide variety of fields

Q&A with artist Massinissa Selmani – our current Mosaic Rooms studio resident

Q1/ Please can you introduce yourself, and tell us where people may have previously encountered your work in the UK?

I was born in Algiers, but now live and work in France. In general, my practice is an experimentation of drawing. I’m interested in documentary forms and newspaper clippings that I explore through drawing.

My first exhibition in the UK was at The Mosaic Rooms in 2014. This was a mixed media group show with myself and five other Algerian artists. I presented installation Diar Echems (Maisons du soleil) (2013-2014), a work inspired by the overcrowded neighbourhood of Diar Echems in Algiers, which is known for the riots that took place in protest against squalid housing conditions. The piece considered the development of a slum on the site of an adjacent football pitch, and the new social and spatial order this created.

installation Diar Echems (Maisons du soleil) by Massinissa Selmani

installation Diar Echems (Maisons du soleil) by Massinissa Selmani

Q2/ You recently took part in London’s 1:54 art fair. What did you do there?

During the 1:54, I presented drawings and took part in the artists talks. I was in conversation with Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation

Q3/ You have been busy since your exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms, can you tell us about some of your recent activities/shows and any upcoming projects?

After the Mosaic Rooms, I was selected for Dakar Biennale. A few months later, I was invited by Okwui Onwezor to the Venice biennale 2015:

Then I was invited by Ralph Rugoff to the Lyon biennale, where I also did a residency with Veduta platform as a partner of the biennale. I also did a residency in Mexico in lithography studio.

In addition to this, I have taken part in some group exhibitions and arts fairs and a solo show at the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré in France.

Actually, I’m working on an experimental animated short film and working on new projects experimenting with drawing. I will also publish my first Monography (in ibook format) soon, with Naima Editions in France.

Q&A with artist Jumana Manna

JM-website-1“I chose not to emphasise borders, in terms of what is Palestinian territory and what is Israel. Lachmann’s radio programme took place before the partition of Palestine. I thought of Lachmann’s program as radio waves spilling out across a territory, defining a certain polity, and participating in shaping the territory. In a sense, when making the film, I physically follow those waves.” (Jumana Manna)

Artist Jumana Manna discusses the work in her current exhibition at Chisenhale Gallery. Read the full interview here.

Jumana Manna is a previous winner of the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year Award.

Her exhibition at Chisenhale gallery is supported by the A.M. Qattan Foundation and The Mosaic Rooms, and is on show until 13 December 2015.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Author Diana Darke on life in Damascus, what she loves most about the city & the damage the Syrian war is causing to historical monuments

“This is what I miss most, that sense of living steeped in the depths of history, embraced by it, which all my friends there [in Damascus] still experience every day. The city is so alive, so vibrant, and yet wears its deep culture so lightly. I never feel that in the same way anywhere else.”

Diana Darke - Damascus

Q1/ You lived in Damascus for a number of years, can you tell us how you came to live there?

In 2003 I was commissioned to write the Bradt Guide to Syria, so was making regular research trips round the country. By chance on one of those trips I met a Syrian architect who specialised in restoring Ottoman courtyard houses. He told me it was now possible for foreigners to buy property in Syria, and that many old houses were falling down from neglect. It seemed like the chance of a lifetime to buy and restore a chunk of a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I made several more trips to look for a suitable and affordable house. After viewing about 30, I chose my house, Bait Baroudi, in the Old City of Damascus. It was semi-derelict and took more than three years to restore.

Q2/ What did you find most interesting about living in Damascus, and what do you miss most now that you have left?

What I love most about Damascus is the almost careless way the modern city blends with the Old City, layer upon layer of history interwoven. Because it has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years – arguably for longer than any other city in the world – none of the ancient ruins have been excavated, they just pop up unexpectedly, almost randomly, among the more modern buildings. So after walking along the Ottoman Souk Al-Hamadiye with its bustling shops and ice-cream parlour, you suddenly come upon columns from the Temple of Jupiter in front of what is now the Umayyad Mosque, formerly the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. This is what I miss most, that sense of living steeped in the depths of history, embraced by it, which all my friends there still experience every day. The city is so alive, so vibrant, and yet wears its deep culture so lightly. I never feel that in the same way anywhere else.

Q3/ Can you tell us briefly about your book My House In Damascus, what it covers and the circumstances that led you to write it? 

I wrote the first draft of My House in Damascus back in 2010, and submitted it to publishers in March 2011 just days before the Syrian Revolution began. My timing was terrible. Everyone told me, “You can’t write a book like this now.” So I rewrote the story many times, incorporating the revolution, explaining how it evolved and how it lost its way. I wanted to help outsiders who had not had the benefit of my first-hand experience, to understand the many complexities of Syrian society, along with much background about Islamic philosophy, art and architecture. I was determined to explain the country differently, still using the house as the central character, to show how Syria works from the inside. That was always my motivation even before the revolution – afterwards it became even more so.

Q4/ Syria is home to six World Heritage Sites and Damascus has some 125 historical monuments. Can you tell us about any damage you noted to the city/its monuments during your recent visit to Damascus? 

Damage in Damascus is mainly limited to the rebellious residential suburbs like Midan in the south and Al-Qaboun in the east. In Jobar just east of the Old City, the ancient synagogue has been destroyed in bombing. Otherwise, random mortar shells sometimes land in the Old City. In November 2013, one hit the mosaics on the courtyard facade of the Umayyad Mosque, and another blew a hole in the citadel – the damage has since been repaired. The Damascus National Museum is closed for its own protection, but other historical monuments like the Azem Palace and the Ananias chapel remain open to visitors and well-tended.

Want to find out more? Join Diana Darke in conversation with Zahed Taj-Eddin at our free talk and book launch event My House in Damascus, 1 April 2015 at The Mosaic Rooms. 

Q&A with Andrew Jack

GGG 0002

Front Line, 2007, Hrair Sarkissian. Image courtesy of the artist and Kalfayan Galleries, Greece

Q1/ You are an award winning FT journalist, the author of Inside Putin’s Russia and co-chairman of Pushkin Housecan you tell us how you came to be interested in Russia and the Southern Caucasus?

I studied Russian at school, first travelled there in the early 1990s and lived and worked there for the Financial Times during 1998-2004. I wrote a book on the period (Inside Putin’s Russia, Granta/OUP). It was always fascinating to travel to the Caucasus, the Mediterranean of the region. I loved the people, the culture, the climate, the food; and was deeply touched by the post-Soviet tensions through which they have lived.

Q2/ Can you tell us briefly about Nagorno-Karabakh – where is it located / some background on the regions conflict?

Nagorno-Karabakh is a Armenian dominated zone that in Soviet times came under the jurisdiction of what is now Azerbaijan. Conflict broke out in 1988 and it broke away, but a military stand-off and periodic clashes remain today. The politics play out not just between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but also Turkey and Russia. I hope to explore the issues in much more detail at the Mosaic Room discussion on March 19th.

Q3/ Why is now a particularly important time to be discussing Nagorno-Karabakh? 

It is one of a number of “frozen conflicts” – now increasingly heating up – along Russia’s southern and western borders that are a product of the late- and post-Soviet era: the others are Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. Russian influence is important, and their peoples and economies are isolated by isolation and lack of international recognition or trade. Topically but sadly, it appears as though parts of eastern Ukraine may end up in a similar situation.

Q4/ What are you working on right now – any news on upcoming books or events you can share with us?

Professionally, I am developing a series of products for the Financial Times that pick the most important news and analysis from the FT and across the web, and distribute it in whichever ways people want – by email, the web, social media, video and so on. In my spare time, I chair Pushkin House, an independent Russian cultural centre in London. We have just unveiled a very strong short list for the Pushkin House Russian book prize of non fiction books in English about the Russian-speaking world as part of our mandate to encourage intelligence discussion of the region: http://www.pushkinhouse.org/new-page/.

Andrew Jack will chair a discussion between Marina Nagai, Dr Hratch Tchilingirian and Dennis Sammut on the issues facing Nagorno-Karabakh on Thursday 19 March, 7pm at The Mosaic Rooms. FREE, RSVP HERE.

Q&A with Cultural Scientist Dr Falko Schmieder

Dr Falko Schmieder

Dr Falko Schmieder

Q1/ Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about your research interests? 

I studied communications, political science, philosophy and sociology at the Technical University of Dresden, the Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2004 I was awarded my Doctorate at Freie Universität Berlin. Since 2005 I have been a researcher on the project, theory and concept of an interdisciplinary conceptual history at the Center for Literary and Cultural Research Berlin.

I’m especially interested in historical semantics and in the history of concepts, especially in such concepts which circulate in different disciplines with different meanings. In pursuit of this interest I wrote articles on the history of concepts like projection, fetishism, survival, evolution and others. My wider research interests are theories of Modernity, Critical Theory and Intellectual History.

Q2/ From a cultural scientist’s perspective what do you find so interesting about Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s practice?

Nadia’s artworks generate awareness for a past that still belongs to our present time. There is a strong connection between the history of concepts and Nadia’s artistic practice. As a cultural scientist I am researching concepts and ideas that not only belong to our contemporary life but that also shape our identity by tracing them back and analysing how they changed in time and how they developed in relation to structural and epistemic transformations. In Nadia’s work I recognise a quite similar endeavour, although the language of grouping things, turning around the use of media and representations, alienating purposes, hacking the usual contexts and creating new meanings is different from scientific research. Nevertheless, her works have always strong connections with our reality. They are not based on fictions, but empirically grounded. There is always something real, a trace, a record, a print, a certain material or discourse that makes it rather feel like a documentation than like a representation.

Q3/ What are the highlights, in your opinion, from her current show at The Mosaic Rooms? 

The works of this exhibition are selected by their reference to the exhibition venue, Tower House, now the building of The Mosaic Rooms in London. New works like Faces and A Colour of Time emerged directly out of historical research that was done in archives and on-site inside the building, and former works like All Along the Watchtower, No and Impunities London Originals, Modular II were chosen because of there relation to London and the Tower House of today. The highlight for me is, of course, A Colour of Time, and the intervention that was performed on the ceiling rose in the Grand Room. It reveals gold leaf of the Victorian age that let to further inquiries about the former landlord of the house and finally to the work Faces in The Cabinet of Souls section of the exhibition. Somehow the works in the exhibition are either connected to each other or to the history of the Tower House. It is as if this history needs to be revealed before it haunts us in our present time.

Exposed gold on ornate circular moulding x200

Exposed gold on ornate circular moulding x200

Gold leaf exposed in The Mosaic Rooms ceiling rose, part of Nadia's work A Colour of Time.

Gold leaf exposed in The Mosaic Rooms ceiling rose, part of Nadia’s work A Colour of Time.


Join Dr Falko Schmieder in conversation with artists Nadia and Timo Kaabi-Linke at Goethe Institut 7pm, 16 October. Rsvp@mosaicrooms.org. Find out more here.

Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s exhibition The Future Rewound & The Cabinet of Souls in on show at The Mosaic Rooms 10 October-29 November 2014. Plan your visit here.


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.


Q&A with Hassan Abdulrazzak about his new play ‘The Tune is Better on The Outside’

We asked Hassan some questions, he responded in the form of a short essay below where he talks about the influences behind, and issues tackled in his new play. Buy tickets now to attend the reading at The Mosaic Rooms on 18 September!

The Tune


The Tune is Better on The Outside was inspired by certain things that I observed both about the Palestinian struggle and post 2003 invasion Iraq, namely the use of Western values that are assumed to have an intrinsic and inherent “goodness” in the oppression and murder of Palestinians and Iraqis.

Take for example the celebrated French Zionist philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, who claimed he visited Gaza after the 2009 bombing campaign by Israel (which was a lie, he visited the Abasan al-Jadida, a village 20 miles away from Gaza) and -according to al jazeera English: “waxed lyrical about the two pianos in Ehud Barak’s “long” drawing room and on the “pianist minister” playing his instruments “like a virtuoso”, contributing to the mythical image of an army filled with artistic generals”.

This strategy of pointing through nods and winks that Israel represents White Western High Culture is the manifestation of a racist ideology that uses art and “progressive” values to justify the unjustifiable.

This ideology desecrates all that it touches.

The musical pieces played on Ehud Barak’s piano lose any positive value they might have when deployed by a high profile celebrity intellectual to justify massacres.

None of this is new.

The Nazis also enjoyed “high culture” and presumably listened to their favourite composers as they were pouring over designs of extermination camps.

After the invasion of Iraq, when it turned out that there were no WMDs, George Bush and Condoleezza Rice used Iraqi women in a photo opp to indicate that actually the invasion was all about “liberating the oppressed Iraqi women”.

The fact that Iraqi women enjoyed greater freedom before the invasion was swept under the carpet and the fake narrative that the photo opp was trying to convey was that we Westerners with our inherently superior values have liberated oppressed Muslim women.

Here again, the potentially good value of “women liberation” is used to justify murder and oppression and loses any previously positive moral force it might have had.

This means that as writers and thinkers we now have to be extra vigilant when seemingly good words such as “democracy”, “Women libration” or even references to “High Art” are deployed to justify launching wars of “liberation”. In the age of slick PR machines – such as those used by the Israel lobby in Britain and the USA – we have to be more vigilant about the corruption of language than George Orwell was in his time.

The short play that I wrote tackles these themes in an abstract fashion. However I’m developing these arguments further in a monologue that will be part of a one man show called “Love, Bombs & Apples”. I’m also working on a full length play that touches on the Israel/Palestine conflict called “Maroon”.


Q&A with Hannah Khalil about her play ‘Bitterenders’


Hannah Khalil was the winner of the 2013 Sandpit Productions’ Bulbul Playwriting Competition. You can see the first London reading of her play here on 18th September, buy tickets now!

Q1/ Bitterenders is a dark comedy. Why did you pick this genre as a way to tell this story?

I’m a big fan of the work of Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman and the humour in Bitterenders is definitely inspired by some of his work. Beckett is also one of my favourite authors and there are parallels to be drawn between the absurd, cyclical and painful situations his characters find themselves in and the characters in Bitterenders – and yet both lead to a very dark, universal humour.

When I read the true story that led to the premise for Bitterenders it also reminded me of an episode of the television comedy from the 1970s Steptoe and Son. For those unfamiliar, it’s about a father and son who live together and their constant battles. In one episode they fall out so badly they split the house in half with a line down the middle – with hilarious consequences. And I very consciously thought about that when I was planning this play.

Bitterenders Photo: Liz Hyder


Q2/ Do you use your own personal experience or background to help shape the stories that you write?

Yes absolutely. My first play about Palestine, Plan D, drew on testimonies of people who lived through 1948 to make an allegorical story about what happens to normal people when the teutonic plates shift and their land is taken from them by force. My subsequent play Scenes from 66* Years is solely made up of stories given to me by people who saw Plan D (or from my own family’s stories) about their own experiences of life under occupation or in exile, to create an epic snapshot of life in Palestine yesterday and today.

Also, my father told me many stories about growing up in a small village in the West Bank, and the situations and characters he described always creep in there – whether I’m aware of it or not as I’m writing.

Bitterenders 2


Q3/ You have written a number of plays for radio, is the writing process for radio different to writing for theatre.

That’s quite hard to pin down actually. I’m not sure. It certainly starts in the same place – a good story, which for radio you distill down even further than you do in theatre. And then, I suppose when you are writing the thing rather than picturing the stage space and actors in it speaking the words, instead you just have a little voice in your ear saying all the words… So I suppose the difference is that with theatre you use your visual imagination when you are writing and radio your aural imagination. Either way your listening to voices in your head!


Hannah Khalil will be performing a reading of her play Bitterenders at The Mosaic Rooms on 18 September. Find out more and RSVP here.

Q&A with Yamina Bakiri about her play ‘The Cost of Eggs’

The first event in our series from emerging Arab playwrights is The Cost of Eggs by Yamina Bakiri which will be read at The Mosaic Rooms on 11th September-buy your tickets now!


Q1/ What inspired you to write The Cost of Eggs? Did you start writing with a character or scenario in mind?

I have a particular interest in what is happening in the Arab world and have been following the uprising in Syria closely. I have friends who were personally affected by the events taking place in Syria. One friend was arrested and for a while no one knew what had happened to him. I was of course very upset by his disappearance (he eventually was released) and could not help thinking about his mother and the pain she must have been going through. I guess this is what I had in mind when I started writing The Cost of Eggs. Eventually the characters took over and decided for themselves.


Q2/ Why did you decide to name it ‘The Cost of Eggs’? 

The eggs in this play symbolise life. I could have also named it “The Cost of Life”. What is the cost of a life in Syria nowadays? What do people have to go through and do to live or survive? I wrote The Cost of Eggs two years ago. If I had to rewrite it today, I would be more pessimistic.


Q3/ You are a neuroscientist, what made you start writing?

As a scientist, you are many things: you are curious, you have a good sense of observation, you are able to bring the pieces of the puzzle together, and you are a bit pedantic. If you add to that a broad imagination and some storytelling skills you definitely become a writer. But to start writing you need inspiration (and discipline). I am lucky enough to be surrounded with inspiring people whose stories I feel deserve to be told. I listen to them and, with a bit of artistic license, bring them back to life.

Q&A With Chef And Author Anissa Helou


On 28 August Anissa Helou will host a Syrian inspired summer supper club at The Mosaic Rooms with a delicious menu celebrating the food from the Levant region.                        More information.

anissa in kitchen© Celia Topping

Q1/ You started your career as an art adviser and you owned an antique shop in Paris. What prompted you to turn to food writing and cooking?

It was a fortuitous coincidence. I was having dinner with my literary agent (I was planning on writing a book on collecting) and a Lebanese friend of hers who was a publisher and their conversation turned to cookery books. That was back at the time of the Gulf war in the very early 1990’s. As I listened to them, I thought it would be a good idea to write a Lebanese cookbook for all those displaced Lebanese youngsters who didn’t have my good fortune of seeing everything grown and made at home. Also my mother is an amazing classical Lebanese cook and I thought it would be a great opportunity to record her recipes. So I suggested I write a cookbook on Lebanese food that was also user friendly to those who didn’t know the cuisine — there weren’t very many cookbooks in those days who did that for Lebanese dishes and there were certainly none that offered any historical information or social context. As luck would have it, my agent had been contacted by a publisher (Grub Street) who was looking for someone to do just that. So, I wrote a proposal. The catch though was that I thought I would write the book in 3 months — I didn’t know much about food writing then — and the proposal alone took 6 months and the book another 2 years or even a little longer.

Q2/ What can be found as staple ingredients in your kitchen?

Spices, tahini, burghul, freekeh, pulses, lemons, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil. And in the freezer nuts, Arabic bread and spiced coffee from Doha.

anissaBLOG© Celia Topping

Q3/ Do you have a guilty food indulgence?


Q4/ Do you have a ‘signature dish’ or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?

Salads: tabbouleh, white tabbouleh and fattoush. Also Turkish kissir and Iranian jewelled rice.

Q5/ You have plans to run culinary tours in 2015 in a number of places including Istanbul and Tangiers. Can you tell us a little about these upcoming tours and previous ones you have led.

I used to lead culinary tours to Syria where I took a small group to sweet-makers, home cooks, spice souks, amazing restaurants and historical sites as well. Those who came with me on these tours are so happy they did given the sadness of what is happening in Syria nowadays. I will be doing the same kind of tour in Turkey, especially the south eastern part and Morocco, also Sicily.

Q&A with Dr Caroline Goodson, Senior Lecturer in History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London.


Caroline will be presenting her lecture With A Seamstress Tape And A Smile at The Mosaic Rooms 31 July. RSVP to reserve your place at rsvp@mosaicrooms.org.


Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 10.49.06


Q1/ In addition to your academic teaching in history archaeology, you have also excavated and carried out field work in Morocco, Algeria and Italy. Can you tell us a bit about how/why you became interested in Archaeology – particularly in your main area of research, medieval cities?


I first went to Rome in 1995 and as I wandered around the city, I kept finding myself going down into basements of churches, or restaurants, to see the earliest parts of the buildings. I became curious about how we knew which part of a basement was a Roman house, which part was a medieval basilica—I found myself doing the archaeology of architecture, and then I decided to study it seriously, going to Columbia University for a PhD, and studying archaeological methodologies at an institute in Italy. Periods of major change fascinate me, so I am very interested in the what the archaeology of the early middle ages tells us about the end of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of small, dynamic political structures, like the papal state in Italy or the Islamic emirates of North Africa. I wrote a book on Rome in the early middle ages, and my core research examines medieval cities as places of presentation, where political and religious ideals were communicated to those who were affected by them. I like thinking about buildings as tools of expression, and so I look at monumental architecture, like palaces, churches or mosques, as well as the houses of the people who were meant to be impressed by the monuments. Archaeology permits me to reconstruct the built environment, in a sense, both from most prestigious to the lower status.


Q2/ During your upcoming talk at The Mosaic Rooms you will be introducing us to the work of Victorian-period archaeologist Esther Van Deman, as well as other pioneering women archaeologists who worked in Italy and North Africa at that time. Can you briefly tell us why these women we so interesting/important?


Firstly, the history of archaeology is predominantly a story of men, most often told by men. The exhibition of these photographs provides an opportunity to remember that many major contributions to our understanding of the past and the techniques we use as archaeologists were made by women. Esther Van Deman was as well-educated as any upper-class American man, and she set out first to Rome then to North Africa to pursue her research in Classics. Her interests lay in recovering the techniques of construction of major pieces of Roman engineering and technology, and she pursued this inquiry looking both at single monuments which were under excavation or recently revealed and looking very broadly at how Romans built buildings. She developed methods of recording and documenting that were scientifically rigorous and show a real analytical mind with a rich historical perspective gained by her classics training. Secondly, Van Deman and other archaeologists of this period travelled widely and lived exotic and fascinating lives, through world wars and going to very remote places. These photographs shed some light on the enormous distances she travelled with her camera and her measuring equipment, in a Mediterranean world that was very different from our own.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 17.20.10


Q3/ Some of Esther Van Deman’s photographs are on show at our current exhibition My Sister Who Travels. Can you pick a couple of your favourite images and tell us a bit about what they depict/ why you like them?


30 Guyotville, Algeria, dolmen, 1913 VD_4427 – [Site now called Ain Benian] This is such a classic archaeologist’s photo: with a folding rule and a digging hoe used as the auxiliary measure. It’s a prehistoric rock structure, put up as tomb monuments (probably). This is one of several dolmen in a necropolis of Beni Messous which was excavated in the 1860s and again in the 1920s, as colonial French built vineyards in the hills north of Algiers.

30 Guyotville, Algeria, dolmen, 1913 VD_4427

10 Herdoniae, Italy, remains of a Roman bridge called Ponte Rotto, across the river Carapelle on the Via Traiana, no date VD_2012 – This site was of major importance in the Punic Wars and classicists were attracted to it because of its connection with Hannibal and some legendary battles. The ruins of the Roman city were only excavated after World War II, so Van Deman must have gone down following the line of the Via Traiana – a major road repaved in the second century to facilitate traffic of people and goods across northern Puglia to the port of Brindisi. The photo shows the aggregate concrete core of what was a brick-faced concrete. The external facing of the concrete has been ripped off and reused, probably in the middle ages, and all that is left is a collapsed concrete, folded on top of itself.

10 Herdoniae Italy, remains of a Roman bridge called Ponte Rotto, across the river Carapelle on the Via Traiana no date VD_2012



Q&A with Eugenie Shinkle, Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster


Eugenie will be in conversation with one of The Mosaic Rooms current exhibiting artist’s, Corinne Silva, for our upcoming event New Visual Languages: Landscape, Politics & the Lens.


Q1/ Please can you briefly introduce yourself and explain what your main area of research is?

I originally trained as a civil engineer, then went on to study photography, art history, and critical theory, obtaining my doctorate from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2003. I am currently Reader in Photography at the University of Westminster.

My academic research encompasses both visual and scholarly practice, and reflects interests which have developed over a 20-year period. I write on a variety of subjects including fashion photography, landscape photography, and visual technologies. My most recent publications include the edited volume Emerging Landscapes: Between Production and Representation (2014), to which I contributed a chapter entitled Prelude to a future: global risk and environmental apocalypse in contemporary landscape photography.

My research into landscape photography – while drawing from disciplines such as architectural theory, human geography and political theory – also focuses on ways that the perception of landscape images is shaped and informed by embodied experience. In addition to my more theory-driven work, for the past three years I have also been working on a large-scale research project examining the recent (post-1970) history of landscape photography in the UK.

euginie blog1


Q2/ In relation to the above, what do you find interesting about The Mosaic Rooms new exhibition My Sister Who Travels?

The history and practice of landscape photography has, for a long time, been shaped by a somewhat exclusive set of conventions and discourses. I’m interested in the way that the work in the exhibition challenges and extends these, exploring landscape as an embodied, gendered practice.


Corinne Silva, Imported Landscapes, 2010


Q3/You must have come across some interesting landscape photographers as part of your research, do you have any favourites – why?

I’ve got too many favourites to list them all here! I’ve recently discovered the work of Irish photographer Mary McIntyre. Her photographs draw on traditional landscape painting, but they aren’t about visual spectacle. Instead, they explore the kind of fascination with detail that emerges when one knows a location very well.


Mary McIntyre, The Dream II, 2009


Join Eugenie Shinkle at The Mosaic Rooms’ event New Visual Languages: Landscape, Politics & the Lens, 7pm, 24.07.14. Entry FREE. rsvp@mosaicrooms.org

Q&A With Writer & Photographer Jason Oddy


Jason Oddy will be showing his latest series of work ‘Concrete Spring’ at The Mosaic Rooms on 19 June 2014. Find out about this event here.


jason oddy blog

Q1/ Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about some of the projects you have worked on?

I am a writer and photographic artist, with a strong interest in place. Many of the sites I have focused on have politics or history or ideology at their core.  For example I have made work in the Pentagon, Guantanamo Bay, the United Nations headquarters and ex-Soviet sanatoria in the Crimea. Equally I have sought out places with more idiosyncratic or personal resonances. Homes of the recently deceased and the cryonics industry in America are a couple that come to mind.


Q2/ Can you tell us a bit about your latest series of work ‘Concrete Spring’ – what does the series depict and why did you choose to focus on this subject?

Concrete Spring is an exploration of celebrated Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s legacy in Algeria.  Shortly after Algerian independence Niemeyer was invited by the then president to help the new nation establish a modern, international outlook, one that would represent a break with its colonial past. While not all Niemeyer’s proposed Algerian projects were built, today two extensive university campuses and an Olympic sports hall stand as testament to this ambition. I first became aware of Niemeyer’s Algerian work as a result of an EU artist residency in Algiers I was invited to take part in by the British Council. That was in November 2010 which, by chance, was the very month the Arab Spring ignited in neighbouring Tunisia. I spent over two years trying to return, motivated in a large part by the decidedly political nature of these buildings. I wanted to capture and make visible again the post-independence optimism that is an integral part of these largely forgotten modernist masterpieces. With the Arab Spring unfurling, I felt the project had an extra urgency, the ideas that led to the creation of such places over a generation ago, now as relevant as ever in a region that continues to find itself at a critical crossroads.


Q3/ Can you tell us a bit about your experience of photographing in Algeria  – did you face any particular challenges? What were your impressions of the country, people and culture?

A good portion of any project I undertake involves gaining access to what are often hard to reach or off-limits places.  Similarly, taking pictures in Algeria was not straightforward. When I first went there in November 2010 I spent nearly the whole week of the residency unsuccessfully trying to get permission to photograph Niemeyer’s Algiers buildings. Eventually I succeeded but only the day before I was leaving.  It took me nearly two and half years to return.  In part this was a problem of funding, in part it was a problem of obtaining permissions.  It seemed I had to reach right to the top of each university to get the green light.  Likewise bringing cameras into Algeria is problematic. In the end I entered overland by taxi in the middle of the night from Tunisia and there was no problem – the customs officers didn’t search the boot. However once in the country things were more relaxed. I was working either on the campuses or in the Olympic Sports Hall – I had the right pieces of paper endorsed by the right, i.e., top, people if anyone challenged me. Overall I had the impression that the country is quite hierarchical – getting things done is largely dependent on whom you know or whom you are able to obtain access to. Luckily I found one or two very helpful and generous contacts who saw the value of the project and assisted me from afar when I was in England.

I spent three weeks in the country and in that time slowly got an idea of its complexity.  Aside from Algeria’s not so distant colonial past, there is the Arab – Berber divide, and the whole question of the Islamists who, whilst having been defeated in the recent bloody civil war – known locally as the ‘black decade’ – apparently have a growing influence. Then there is the matter of the ‘deep state’, the military that is said to control the country.  A number of people I met were outspoken with strong opinions on the political situation. However, allied to that is what I felt was a certain sense of powerlessness, a lack of individual agency. Algeria is an authoritarian state, the Arab Spring didn’t reach the country – at least the protests there never really caught fire as they did elsewhere. Now Algerians will tell you that they knew all along that the Arab Spring would come to no good playing into the hands either of Islamists or autocrats. I think that after the civil war in which so many people died so horribly, many Algerians have convinced themselves that perhaps it is better to stick with the devil they know. While the pain of that period is still palpable (I met people who had lost family members to the conflict), it did seem to have produced a certain carefree attitude. The Algerians I met were often funny and warm and, in Algiers at least, quite hedonistic.


Q4/ What are you working on right now? Are you planning any new projects/ where should we watch-out for your next exhibition?

At present I am finishing writing a book about a town in New Mexico which the American government bought and then turned into an anti-terrorist training centre. The book, Notes From The Desert, will also include a number of my photographs and is being published by Grasset, France. Currently I am participating in a group show at Belmacz Gallery in London.  In September Concrete Spring will show at the Amsterdam Unseen photography fair, before it moves on to be a part of the Milan Triennale in October. In May 2015 Concrete Spring will be on show at the Royal Academy in London.

Q&A With Artist & Filmmaker Ronnie Close


Ronnie Close will be joining us to screen and discuss his film work More Out of Curiosity on 13 June.



Q1/ Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about some of the project you have worked on?

I am an Irish artist currently based in Cairo, Egypt. My work explores social issues and narrative through the medium of film. The current film project ‘More Out of Curiosity’ looks at a football fan movement in Egypt called the Ultras who mix politics with football. I am an Assistant Professor of Photography at the American University in Cairo. Previously I lived in Bristol and completed a practice-based PhD at the University of Wales in 2010.


Q2/ Your film work ‘More Out of Curiosity’ will be screening at The Mosaic Rooms 13 June – it focuses on the ‘Ultras,’ a group of Egyptian football fans. Can you tell us a bit more about this group and why they are significant in Egyptian politics?

The Ultras are one of the key players in the political debate in Egypt. Although a movement of fanatical football supporters and affiliated to different teams in the domestic league they often joined forces in street protests to remove Hosni Mubarak in 2011. This street activism was tragically played out in the Port Said incident in February 2012 when 74 Al-Ahly fans were killed in suspicious circumstances at a football game. The court verdict a year later found 21 guilty of murder and they were sentenced to death. The Ultras are a non-sectarian, classlessmass movement and pose a threat to the post-2011 Egyptian governments; either Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood or the military backed new president Al-Sisi.


Q3/ Can you tell us a bit about your experience of working in Egypt  – did you face any particular challenges/ special opportunities?

I arrived in Cairo to live in January 2012, three weeks before the Port Said incident. This event became a basis for me to engage with the legacy of the 2011 street politics as it became clear that a terrible violent reprisal against the Al-Ahly Ultras had takenplace. I originally visited in 2011 when there seemed to be a real sense ofoptimism and social change however the atmosphere has transformed since thosedays. Over the years there have been some dark times of curfews and extreme violence. But outside of this everyday life in Cairo is amazing and the people are mostly resilient with a very vibrant culture. I feel privileged to live here and if you adjust or connect to the city it can be a very stimulating place to live. For me it’s  fascinating to explore and throws up the unexpected regularly as it is a place continually in flux.


Q4/ What are you working on right now? Are you planning any new projects?

I am continuing to work with the Ultras and will develop a 3rd film project that expands the ideas of representation and mediation of events into a long portrait film format. In addition to this Cairo seems to have an endless supply of interesting projects that surface randomly. I am working on a new film work on image censorship in Egypt. This new work will look at the stark difference between outward censorship versus private or hidden desires. I came across some intriguing images accidentally, first on a shared computer and then secondly in art books in a bookshop that have been doctored by a government agency. This traffic and control of imagery is particularly powerful in this context where public discourse is stifled and media outlets are essentially propagandist.
And am also involved in an artist collective called the Ranciere Reading Group in Cairo and we have a number of shared projects. One of which, the Pensive Image, will be included in the Brighton Photo Biennial 2014.

Find more out about Ronnie Close’s event at The Mosaic Rooms, 7pm, 13 June, here. RSVP to reserve your place at rsvp@mosaicrooms.org

Q&A with Photographer and Filmmaker Andrew Cross


Q1/ Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how you work / your approach to photography?

Actually, this is not an easy question to answer. I came to photography both early and late!?! I grew up with my father being an avid ‘amateur’ photographer and although I had my own camera from a fairly young age, I did not establish my own photographic practice as such until after studying fine art painting and working for a number of years as a gallery curator.

I sometimes describe my approach as ‘looking around corners’. In other words, I do not look at things head-on as it were, but in a manner that suggests there is also something unseen out of view that might in fact be the true subject of the work. This I believe is very much how we experience architecture.

Q2/ These photographic works, specially commissioned by The Mosaic Rooms, were taken in the summer of 2013 during your trip to Mogadishu (Somalia’s capital city), with Somali-British architect Rashid Ali. Can you tell us a bit about the challenges you faced whilst photographing there?

For a multitude of reasons, many far to complex to explain here, my visit to Mogadishu was both intense and profound. What has to be recognised is that this was the first time I have been to Africa and certainly the first time I’ve visited what might be described as a ‘conflict-zone’. Not that these facts themselves were necessarily the most challenging aspects of my trip. Firstly I was made to feel very welcome and was looked after well by Rashid and his generous friends in Mogadishu. This was a very different way of working for me. I usually work alone often in remote locations and after considerable research and planning. To some extent I was working ‘blind’ and having to respond very quickly to what was in front of me. This was hard work in itself but very exciting. I was working perhaps much more in the manner of a ‘photo-journalist’, something I wouldn’t usually consider myself. This was very satisfying. Also I generally don’t ‘do people’ (and deal more with their traces). In Mogadishu, even though we were visiting sites mostly cordoned off from the general public, I did not have the luxury of being able to leave people out of the images. I am now so pleased this was something I had no choice but to confront.

Otherwise, my programme was very limited on a number of counts. Access to sites was limited, my ‘security’ was not always available, and I physically could not be out in the sun for more than 2-3 hours max. I therefore had to work very fast and was in the hotel for the rest of the time. Fortunately, not only could I relax watching the Tour de France but I was able to shoot video from my hotel room window, something that allowed yet another way of observing the city. Despite the frenetic nature of life on Mogadishu’s streets the ‘slow’ contemplative nature of these films is very much ‘my thing’..!

Q3/ What do you hope these photographs will tell us about Mogadishu?

My visit to Mogadishu confirmed for me the social potential of architecture and I hope my pictures help people recognise this potential in the context of situations like Mogadishu today. I would like to refer to a quote by Nietzsche I recently came across. “Of what use, then, is the monumentalistic conception of the past, to the man of the present? He learns from it that the greatness that once existed was in any event once possible and may thus be possible again.”

To find out more, join Andrew Cross in conversation with Michaela Crimmin and Eugenie Dolberg, at As Seen from Here (26 March, 7pm at The Mosaic Rooms), rsvp@mosaicrooms.org.

Q&A with Ilan Pappé, Israeli Historian, Socialist Activist And Author



© Photo: Paula Geraghty

Q1/ You are currently launching your new title: ‘The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge’, can you briefly summarise what this title examines and tell us how you came to write this book? 

Israel is the only state in the world that is still obliged to brand itself domestically and internationally as a valid entity and which strives to convince itself and others that its narrative of how and why it was born is the only possible and truthful version of events.  This branding effort appears in the work of scholars as well as that of filmmakers. The narrative thus is presented as both a scientific truth and as a fictional plot. The book follows this branding through the efforts in the 1990s,  inside the state, to challenge its validity and morality and examines the failure of this challenge in recent years and describes its move to the outside world.

The book was written out of my ongoing interest in two themes: the history of Israel and Palestine on the one hand, and the relationship between power and knowledge on the other. The need of Israelis to prove their valid claims through scientific research as well as movie plots is a fascinating case in the history of knowledge production in the Western world. Focusing on this aspect also explains where today is the main struggle against Israel and Zionism: in the field of narration, historiography and moral debates. While Israel had the upper hand militarily and maybe diplomatically, in this area it is losing the moral ground rapidly and ominously for the Jewish State.

Q2/ How does this title differ/or build upon your other work or other books on this subject?  

I was involved directly in the challenge I describe above both in books I have written such as The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine and have also written about my particular part of the struggle in Out of the Frame.  It is time now to take stock and view the process so far.

Q3/ Can you tell us a bit about the process you went through when writing this title?

I have been working for five years on this book, but the main push came when Israel began the campaign Brand Israel in 2005. Suddenly I understood what I was looking for. Only when I finished the book, I realized how topical it became when the government of Israel declared that the campaign of ‘delegitimisation’ of the state is more dangerous to Israel than the Iranian nuclear threat.

The book also became a tribute to Edward Said who wrote in 1982 that the Palestinians have a permission to narrate their own version in their liberation struggle for their rights and self-determination. The ‘permission’ had been taken and the results can be seen vividly today.

Q4/ Has the novel had the kind of response that you expected it to have? 

Too early to judge. But you can see the beginnings of reactions in my facebook pages here.

Join Ilan Pappé at The Mosaic Rooms 7pm, 26 February 2014, for the launch of ‘The Idea of Israel: A history of power and knowledge’. Find out more here.

Q&A with Amir Mousawi, Director of AMBS Architects


Amir Mousawi will be in conversation with Marcos De Andres and Edwin Heathcote at The Mosaic Rooms on Thursday 6 February, 7pm. They will discuss the importance of the designs for the New Baghdad Library, the challenges facing them, as well as the implications of the building in establishing a new platform for Iraq’s cultural future. More information.



Q1/ Can you briefly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work at AMBS architects?

AMBS Architects was founded in 1996 by my father Ali Mousawi and 2006 was joined by Marcos De Andres and myself. Working together has  allowed us to take on more ambitious, high profile projects like the Baghdad Library and the project management of the Basra Sports City. We now have a great team of 60 employees in London, Baghdad and Basra. We are involved in every stage of the architectural process, guiding and overseeing the design teams from initial conception to design completion and project management.

Before this I worked as a project architect in northern Iraq, before setting up a London-based design practice with Marcos De Andres. Marcos studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture and has previously worked with Fosters and Partners, Make and Californian practice Morphosis, while Ali has over forty years of architecture, consultancy and planning experience in Iraq and the UK. So our approach combines our expertise in technology and understanding of the importance of cultural heritage.

Q2/ AMBS architects are currently designing the first public library to be constructed in Baghdad since the 1970, can you briefly tell us about this project?

The design was shaped by questioning role of the public library today and what it could mean for somewhere like Baghdad. The Library is organised to encourage and empower intellectual and creative exchange. The library will be very modern; it won’t simply be a place to find books, but a freely accessible place of knowledge. It will be a social place where young people can come together and share ideas with one another and the rest of the world through digital technology, the internet and social media as well as giving access to a collection of over three million books along with rare manuscripts and periodicals.

Functionality, intuitive organisation, and rational user-friendly design were all key concepts that shaped the building from the inside out. We aimed to create a visibly energy efficient building so that the structure will educate visitors, through the integration of solar panels into the roof, and subtly through the building’s mass, form and orientation. This is part of our wider commitment to minimising environmental impact, optimising energy efficiency, and working towards a truly sustainable future where Iraq’s economy is not solely dependent on oil. The practical and cultural importance of light is demonstrated through an encrypted message in the design of the roof that forms the word ‘read’ written in Arabic calligraphy, which is documented as the first word spoken from God to the prophet in the Qur’an.

Q3/ Can you explain why the library project is so important/significant for Baghdad?

There is a vacuum of knowledge in Iraq; years of embargo and occupation have done a lot of damage to the knowledge infrastructure, so it’s important to everyone that the library project materialises – it’s important to build. Iraq desperately needs it. The country has been kept isolated from the world and from modern technology. For Iraq’s younger generations, who have been surrounded by violence, there has few opportunities for work or further education. Our vision is to bring hope back to the young people, to build them a new cultural centre where they can express their talent and ideas. It’s time Baghdad, and Iraq, had new public institutions that reflect the ambitions of its’ people.

Our website uses cookies that do not collect personal data. View our Privacy Policy.