First UK solo exhibition by art collective Fehras Publishing Practices opens at The Mosaic Rooms
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First UK solo exhibition by art collective Fehras Publishing Practices opens at The Mosaic Rooms
Borrowed Faces (2019). A photonovel about publishing culture. Fehras Publishing Practices. Installation view of Borrowed Faces:Future Recall, 2021. Photograph Andy Stagg, image courtesy of The Mosaic Rooms.

LONDON.- The Mosaic Rooms presents the first UK solo exhibition by Berlin-based art collective Fehras Publishing Practices. Borrowed Faces: Future Recall looks at the Cold War and its effect on cultural practices in the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa region, which generated one of the most fertile periods in the history of Arab culture and publishing. The exhibition is part of the 2021 Shubbak Festival.

Artists Sami Rustom, Omar Nicolas and Kenan Darwich have been working together as Fehras Publishing Practices since 2015. Their work playfully explores significant cultural moments in the history of Arab publishing through performance, installation and publications, skilfully blending fiction and reality.

Borrowed Faces unpicks the political and cultural policies of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, investigating the networks and projects funded by the rival superpowers. The exhibition has three distinct sections, presenting different strands of the artists’ current research.

One section exhibits Fehras’ photo-novel Borrowed Faces, no. 1. Through a series of photographs, the viewer is transported to Beirut in the 1960s by three women, performed by the collective. The novel follows these characters’ journeys as they interact with historical figures and institutions of the Cold War, revealing the complex tangle of power, money, creativity and friendship.

Another section presents the collective’s archives of books, magazines, letters, memoirs and photographs. The installation also presents a part of Fehras’ research that focuses on London based publications during the Cold War era in the 1960s, when the city became a meeting point for Arab intellectuals.

In a newly produced collage work, the final section presents a re-imagining of the archive for the Congress for Cultural Freedom. This anti-communist cultural organisation was later discovered to have been funded by the CIA. The protagonists of Borrowed Faces reappear in this work, travelling into the future to interact with this archive. Through it, the artists explore the role of institutional archiving in defining knowledge hierarchies and classifying facts.

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