Tania El Khoury's Gardens Speak asks audience members to share experiences of the piece. Twenty-eight showings of Gardens Speak across five continents produced a large number of audience letters. These handwritten messages, artifacts of each performance, provide insight into the varied audience experiences of Gardens Speak, including their reflections on politics, empathy, loss, and death. The letters were first conceptualized as a message of solidarity that would be written by audiences around the world and sent back to the families and friends of the deceased whose stories they shared. As the pile of letters kept growing, El Khoury realized that the contents of letters were overwhelmingly complex, messy, and intimate. They could not be reduced to a simple message of solidarity. "Tell me what I can do" is a sentence written in a number of letters in which audience members seek advice after hearing the martyrs' stories. In this newly commissioned work for ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury, the artist asks the audience for guidance on what to do with accumulated material that we regard as evidence of our encounter and our shared responsibility. In addition to the letters, the installation features responses to the letters from some of the early collaborators in the making of Gardens Speak. However, not all audience letters made it into this installation. Some were lost along the way, confiscated by police. Others will be buried in the ground, never to be read. A part of the 2018 Fringe Festival. Presented with MET Philly.
Gardens Speak is an immersive sound installation containing the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in Syrian gardens. Each narrative has been carefully constructed with the friends and family members of the deceased to retell their stories as they themselves may have recounted them. They are compiled with found audio that evidences their final moments. Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists and protesters who adorned the streets during the early periods of the ongoing uprising against the regime of Bashar Hafez al-Assad. These domestic burials play out a continuing collaboration between the living and the dead. The dead protect the living by not exposing them to further danger at the hands of the regime. The living protect the dead by conserving their identities, telling their stories, and not allowing their deaths to become instruments of the regime. A part of the 2018 Fringe Festival. Presented with MET Philly.
Little is known about why Palestinian refugee camps are located where they are. Little is known about the trajectories of their communities. It is often assumed that, upon their arrival, refugees were transported to tents that later became "camps." For Camp Pause, Tania El Khoury and Abir Saksouk from Beirut-based Dictaphone Group worked with four residents of the Rashidieh Refugee Camp on the coast of Lebanon, south of the city of Tyre -- a camp that has existed for generations. Reflecting on ideas of refuge and the sea that connects them to Palestine, these residents led the group from their homes to the sea. Along the way, the residents wove narratives about the history of the land, their arrival, the struggle to build, and life in a camp situated away from the city, bordered by agricultural fields, the sea, and a checkpoint. The four videos play simultaneously on the walls of a square gallery space, each video and its accompanying audio following one story. A part of the 2018 Fringe Festival. Presented with MET Philly.