The Audience Dug the Graves: Interacting with Oral History and Mourning in Live Art

Tania El Khoury

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This practice-based thesis asks, “What is the political potential of interactive live art and how is it achieved?” The guiding question is borne out of the conditions and experiences of the Arab uprisings as well as the necessity of exploring the intertwining of art and politics beyond the Western art scene that art history and criticism overwhelmingly focus on. The research addresses three main elements in which the intersection of politics and live art can be analysed: interactivity, the use of oral history in performance, and mourning as militancy. The analysis takes as its subject of study the live art practice of Tania El Khoury, both as a solo artist working in different international contexts and as a co-founder of Dictaphone Group, a collective coupling urban research with live art and producing mainly site-specific projects in Lebanon.
The practice component of this doctoral thesis is an interactive sound installation performance entitled Gardens Speak. Ten oral histories from people who were killed in Syria in the early period of the uprising and were buried in home or public gardens constitute the content of the piece. The work has toured in five different continents. In March 2016, it was presented in London at the Battersea Arts Centre, where it was attended by the examiners. The thesis draws on the inter-disciplinary scholarship on art and politics, putting it into conversation with the responses of critics and audience members to Gardens Speak. Both the written and the practice components of this doctoral project focus on addressing and re-imagining oral history collection and its use in performance, mourning as resistance, and the politics of audience interactivity.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Arts & Humanities Res Coun AHRC
  • Nield, Sophie, Supervisor
  • Hawkins, Harriet, Supervisor
Award date1 May 2018
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018


  • Live Art
  • Interactivity
  • Oral History
  • Mourning
  • Arab Uprisings
  • Performance Art
  • installation art
  • Gardens Speak
  • Participatory art
  • Immersive theatre
  • one to one theatre
  • One-on-One Theatre

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