“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
Across Syria, many gardens conceal the dead bodies of activists and protestors 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 of the regime.
Gardens Speak is an interactive sound installation that toured around the world. It contains 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 would have recounted it.
This book contains the narrative text of those ten oral histories in both English and spoken Arabic. It includes an acknowledgement and introduction by the artist, and illustrations of the audience experience in Gardens Speak.
Tania El Khoury is an artist working between London and Beirut. She creates interactive installations and challenging performances in which the audience is an active collaborator.
She is the co-founder of Dictaphone Group, a research and performance collective aiming at reclaiming public space in Lebanon.
Tadween Publishing, 2016