Tania El Khoury’s Gardens Speak asks audience members to share experiences of the piece. Twenty-eight showings of Gardens Speak across five continents produced a large number of audience letters. These handwritten messages, artifacts of each performance, provide insight into the varied audience experiences of Gardens Speak, including their reflections on politics, empathy, loss, and death.
The letters were first conceptualized as a message of solidarity that would be written by audiences around the world and sent back to the families and friends of the deceased whose stories they shared. As the pile of letters kept growing, El Khoury realized that the contents of letters were overwhelmingly complex, messy, and intimate. They could not be reduced to a simple message of solidarity.
“Tell me what I can do” is a sentence written in a number of letters in which audience members seek advice after hearing the martyrs’ stories. In this newly commissioned work for ear-whispered: works by Tania El Khoury, the artist asks the audience for guidance on what to do with accumulated material that we regard as evidence of our encounter and our shared responsibility. In addition to the letters, the installation features responses to the letters from some of the early collaborators in the making of Gardens Speak. However, not all audience letters made it into this installation. Some were lost along the way, confiscated by police. Others will be buried in the ground, never to be read.
A part of the 2018 Fringe Festival. Presented with MET Philadelphia.