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Gardens Speak

Tania El Khoury

An immersive sound installation set in a Syrian garden

Person in white protective suit lying in a dark place on the soil, holding a torch to read a card. another person is lying behind them, ear to the ground
Gardens Speak, Tania El Khoury. Photo by Jesse Hunniford

“Even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins.” – Walter Benjamin

An intimate and poetic sound installation set in a Syrian garden, Gardens Speak invites you to listen to ten soulful narratives by placing your head on the ground.

One of today’s most provocative artists returns to the gardens of Syria as the setting for this powerful work. Lebanese-British artist Tania El Khoury tenderly recreates the memories and stories of a people under siege. Away from the war-ravaged streets, the dead bodies of activists and protestors from the early periods of the Syrian uprising are quietly laid to rest in gardens across the city.

In Gardens Speak, El Khoury invites you listen to the oral histories of ten ordinary people who were buried in these 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 it. They are compiled with found audio that evidences their final moments.​​

Just like the dead protect the living by not exposing them to further danger at the hands of the regime, we – the living – protect the dead by telling their stories, and not allowing their deaths to become instruments to the regime.

Lay your head quietly to the ground, and let the sounds from beneath speak to you – in a quietly powerful work that embraces life, death and the human condition. 

“This piece will change the way you think.” 

What’s on Stage

“A stark, moving theater piece by Tania El Khoury, brings us into painful intimacy with the human cost of the war.”  

The New York Times

“One of the most uniquely individual and profound theatrical experiences in recent memory.” 

Edge Media Network

Interactive Sound Installation Performance: Tania El Khoury
Production Assistant and Audience Guide: Naya Salame
Production Manager: Jessica Harrington
Research Assistant and Writer (Arabic): Keenana Issa English
Translation: Ziad Abu-Rish
Calligraphy and Tombstones Design: Dia Batal
Set Design: Abir Saksouk
Sound Recording & Editing: Khairy Eibesh (Stronghold Sound)
Produced by: Artsadmin
Co-commissioned by Fierce Festival (UK) and Next Wave Festival (Australia.)
Developed through the Artsadmin Artists’ Bursary Scheme.
Supported by Arts Council of England.

Tania El Khoury is a live artist creating installations and performances focused on audience interactivity and concerned with the ethical and political potential of such encounters. Her work has been translated and presented in multiple languages in 32 countries across six continents, in spaces ranging from museums to cable cars to the Mediterranean Sea. She is a 2019 Soros Art Fellow and the recipient of the 2017 International Live Art Prize, the 2011 Total Theatre Innovation Award and Arches Brick Award.

Tania was a festival guest curator at Bard Fisher Center. She holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2018, a survey of her work entitled “ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury” took place in Philadelphia organised by Bryn Mawr College and FringeArts Festival funded by Pew Centre for Arts and Heritage. Tania is affiliated with Forest Fringe in the UK and is the co-founder of the urban research and performance collective Dictaphone Group in Lebanon. 
Find out more

Date and time

19–30 May 2021
Various times

Please note
This is now a past event.


Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA)