Hear the Stories of Ten Ordinary People Buried in Syrian Gardens

Gardens Speak provides an intimate experience that will invite poignant emotional reflection

Press Release

The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi is presenting an interactive sound installation that invites participants to share in the lives of ordinary people buried in Syrian gardens. Gardens Speak has multiple performances  available from Friday, April 27 to Monday, April 30 at various times in The Red Theater.

Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists who took to the streets during the early periods of the conflict. These domestic burials, which were created as a precaution against the dangers posed by public funerals, play out a continuing collaboration between the living and the dead. Inspired by this provocative image, Gardens Speak, conceived by award-winning live artist Tania El Khoury, constructs an intimate experience for a maximum capacity of ten participants per performance, allowing for a powerful auditory retelling to come to life as each participant hears the recorded story of just one such individual.

Each personal 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. The recordings are compiled with found audio that evidences their final moments, which can only be heard as each audience member is called to listen while prone in the cemetery garden installed below the stage of The Arts Center’s Red Theater.. Performances will be held separately in English and Arabic.

Bill Bragin, executive artistic director of The Arts Center, explains, “Gardens Speak is a striking piece which addresses what many of us experience when reading the news. Sometimes tragedies seem too big to fathom. By bringing audience members into an intimate performance installation where they hear just a single person’s story, Tania el Khoury has created a brilliantly moving context to create greater understanding and tap more deeply into our human empathy. It’s an important work that opens important conversations.”

Tania El Khoury is a live artist working in London and Beirut. She creates interactive installations and performances in which the audience is an active collaborator. Tania’s work has been shown in five continents in spaces ranging from museums to cable cars, she is also the recipient of the Total Theatre Innovation Award and the Arches Brick Award. El Khoury is co-founder of Dictaphone Group, an urban research and site-specific performance collective in Beirut.

In addition to Gardens Speak Tania El Khoury will also give a talk on April 28th, 2018, at 6:30pm at the NYUAD Institute. The talk covers Tania’s work, Gardens Speak and a larger conversations about how she builds work that blurs the lines between performance and visual arts, politics and personal, and tackling issues that are current and timeless.

About NYU Abu Dhabi

NYU Abu Dhabi is the first comprehensive liberal arts and research campus in the Middle East to be operated abroad by a major American research university. NYU Abu Dhabi has integrated a highly selective undergraduate curriculum across the disciplines with a world center for advanced research and scholarship. The university enables its students in the sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and arts to succeed in an increasingly interdependent world and advance cooperation and progress on humanity’s shared challenges. NYU Abu Dhabi’s high-achieving students have come from over 115 countries and speak over 115 languages. Together, NYU's campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai form the backbone of a unique global university, giving faculty and students opportunities to experience varied learning environments and immersion in other cultures at one or more of the numerous study-abroad sites NYU maintains on six continents.