Syrian artists Sami Rustom, Omar Nicolas and Kenan Darwich, founded the Fehras Publishing Practices in Berlin in 2015. Their work – efficiently melting fiction and reality – explores significant cultural moments in the history of publishing through performance, installation and publications, and its entanglement in socio-political and cultural spheres in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa region, and the Arab diaspora.
Borrowed Faces: Future Recall – currently at the Mosaic Rooms in London – looks at the Cold War and its effect on cultural practices which generated one of the most fertile periods in the history of Arab culture and publishing. The exhibition, composed of three distinct sections, shows different research lines of the current artists’ research.
The first room presents the collective’s archives with books, letters, photographs, memories and magazines. The installation also introduces some of Fehras’ research on publications and thinkers based in London during the Cold War in the 60s, when the city became a meeting point for arab intellectuals.
The second section is dedicated to the Fehras’ photo-novel Borrowed Faces n.1. The viewer, through the journey of three women – ironically interpreted by the artists – is catapulted to Beirut in the 60s. The novel describes the histories of the protagonists while interacting with historical figures and institutions of the Cold War, reeling the complex intertwining among power, money, friendship, and creativity.
The final section, composed of new large-scale photographs, presents a revisiting of the Congress for Cultural Freedom’s archive. The artists travel to the future to interact with the archive and re-appear in the work, exploring the role of institutional archiving in defining knowledge hierarchies and classifying facts. This anti-communist cultural organization was later discovered to have been financed by the CIA.
The exhibition is part of the 2021 Shubbak Festival, and it is delivered in collaboration with Delfina Foundation and the support of Goethe Institute. See more information on the exhibition on the Mosaic Rooms website here.