Shubbak Festival of Arab Culture: Survival of the artist

Sunday 2 July 2017,
BP Lecture Theatre
Tickets £15
Members/Concessions £12


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A symposium on art in times of conflict and censorship.

The Mosaic Rooms, in association with Shubbak Festival 2017, presents a one-day symposium of talks and performance which asks how art can survive and respond in times of conflict and censorship.

Artists, curators, collectors, cultural commentators and institutions in the region are at increasing risk. Hear from individuals, institutions and commentators about these challenges and how some artists and art spaces endure and continue to thrive in the most challenging conditions. From Palmyra to Mosul, the destruction of ancient sites through armed violence has been widely reported in the media. The day ends with artists who are responding to these threats to cultural heritage.

The conference is divided into three sessions, looking at the themes of censorship, artists at risk and heritage destruction. Sessions will include presentations from each of the participants, panel discussions and audience Q&As.

A special performance will take place in the lecture theatre for all conference ticket holders, repeated three times during the day. Delegates will be assigned a timeslot when purchasing tickets.


10.00 Registration

11.00–12.45 Strictly prohibited
Artists present their responses to the curtailment of freedoms, censorship and restrictions in public spaces. Speakers include choreographers and dancers Selma and Sofiane Ouissi (founders Dream City, Tunisia), playwright and cultural activist Abdullah Alkafri (Executive Director of Ettijahat – Independent Culture, Syria) and artists Khaled Barakeh (Syria) and Khaled Jarrar (Palestine). Chair: T J Demos.

12.45–14.00 Lunch (not provided)

14.00–15.15 Representing the artist
This session explores the efforts of collectors and institutions to protect artists at risk and reflects on issues of representation of these artists within national and international spaces. Speakers include William Wells (Town House Gallery, Cairo), Shireen Atassi (Atassi Foundation, Syria), Al Mawred Al Thaqafy-Artists at Risk (Beirut), and curator and writer Hammad Nasar.

15.25–17.15 Displaced history
As heritage is threatened and contested, four artists and curators look at important historical and cultural narratives under threat. Speakers include Tamara Chalabi (curator Iraq Pavilion Venice Biennale and director Ruya Foundation, Iraq), and artists Zahrah Al Ghamdi (Saudi Arabia), Maeve Brennan (Beirut-based) and Larissa Sansour (Palestine). Chair: Venetia Porter, British Museum.

Performances: For The Absent Ones – Parallel Crossings
10.15–10.35, 13.00–13.20, 13.30–13.50
The artist cannot be present tonight. Created as an audio experience by theatre artists Abdullah Alkafri (Beirut), Moez Mrabet (Tunis), Jon Davis and Jonathan May (UK), For The Absent Ones is a response to tightening borders and restrictions on travel. Equipped with headphones and entering a theatre space, the audience listens to moving voices of those unable to move freely.

Presented in partnership with The Mosaic Rooms. In collaboration with the Atassi Foundation, with additional support from Al Mawred Al Thaqafy. Part of Shubbak at the British Museum a day of events.

For more information and to book, visit

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The Untitled Images, 2014, Khaled Barakeh