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Gardens Speak

Tania El Khoury

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

Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists and protesters who adorned the streets during the early periods of the uprising. 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 to the regime.

Gardens Speak is an interactive 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 it. They are compiled with found audio that evidences their final moments.

“Art is supposed to be universal – and there is no more universal thing than fear of death. Or grief. In Gardens Speak, out of the most specific experience, Tania El Khoury crafts something massive.”

Paul Mason, Channel 4

“This piece will change the way you think.”

What’s on Stage

“Eerily absorbing.”

Evening Standard

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

New York Times

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

Edge Media Network

Duration: Approximately 40 minutes
Age recommendation: 14+

For more information on this project, please contact Cat Harrison at cat@artsadmin.co.uk

Interactive Sound Installation Performance by 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.

Date Title Venue City
19–30 May 2021 Gardens Speak Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA)
6 March 2014 Gardens Speak, a work-in-progress Toynbee Studios
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
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