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The Search for Power

Tania El Khoury

On a night with a sudden electricity outage in their Beirut neighbourhood, the artist and her historian husband discussed the history of power cuts in Lebanon.

A dark image with neon yellow/ green lighting, which illuminates Ziad Abu-Rish, wearing black tie on the left, and Tania El Khoury, wearing a dress and drinking from a bottle on the right
Photo by Elina Giounanli

Born during the Lebanese Civil War, the artist had grown up with the understanding that the problem with electricity in Lebanon began during the war. The historian, however, recalled finding a government document dated 1952 that announced scheduled electricity outages across Beirut. The two decided to research the history of power outages in Lebanon, delving into the intersection between public utilities infrastructure, people’s relationship to the state, and various popular mobilisations to shape both.

In time, they reach as far back as the introduction of electricity in Beirut before it was even possible to imagine a Lebanese state. In space, they collect documents across Lebanon and beyond its borders, visiting the archives of colonial powers: Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. What they find is a transnational story that locates electricity at the intersection of colonial legacies, the machinations of political and economic elites, and everyday acts of resistance, survival, and sabotage.

The Search for Power is a lecture and installation performance featuring the artist, the historian, and the audience.

Tania El Khoury is alive 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 Bessies Outstanding Production Award, the International Live Art Prize, the Total Theatre Innovation Award, and the Arches Brick Award. Tania holds a PhD in Performance Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London. She recently acted as a guest festival curator at Bard College’s Fisher Center for Performing Arts. In 2018, a survey of her work entitled “ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury” took place in Philadelphia. Tania is associated with Forest Fringe collective of artists in the UK and is a co-founder of Dictaphone Group in Lebanon, a research and performance collective aiming at questioning our relationship to the city, and redefining its public space.

Creation: Tania El Khoury
Performance: Tania El Khoury, Ziad Abu-Rish, and Petra Abousleiman
Research: Ziad Abu-Rish with support from Owain Lawson
Graphic Design: Jana Traboulsi
Production Design: Petra Abousleiman
Sound Design: Ali Beidoun
Dramaturgy: Deborah Pearson

Co-commissioned by Anti Festival and Shubbak Festival. Supported by Arts Council England and brut Wien.

Date and time

28–30 July 2024


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