As Far As My Fingertips Take Me – London / Beirut
Tania El Khoury
Live Art Performance
As Far As My Fingertips Take Me is an encounter through a gallery wall between an audience member and a refugee. Their arms touch without seeing each other. The refugee will mark the audience by drawing on their arm. The audience will listen to those who have recently challenged border discrimination. The marking can be kept or washed away.
Tania El Khoury commissioned musician and street artist Basel Zaraa who was born a Palestinian refugee in Syria to record a rap song inspired by the journey his sisters made from Damascus to Sweden. Through touch and sound, this intimate encounter explores empathy and whether we need to literally “feel” a refugee in order to understand the effect of border discrimination on peoples’ lives.
Our fingertips facilitate touch and sensations, but are also used by authorities to track many of us. In today’s Europe, a refugee’s journey can be set as far as their fingertips take them. The Dublin Regulation mandated a fingerprinting database across Europe for all refugees and migrants. The regulation often means that a refugee is sent back to where their fingertips where first recorded, without any regard to their needs, desires, or plans.
In Defiance, Basel Zaraa raps in Arabic:
Crossing the border means leaving behind a 75% chance of death
Not from random shelling, barrel bombs, or even whippings
You enter, and just like everyone else, you nod your head
With each rejection
Say what you like, but all this won’t cost you more than $1000
Don’t ask me why or for what
Half of it bribes for the army and the police in Turkey
And the rest to live on and for the guys to get drunk with
Then it’s just your luck with the sea
In short, you either beat it, or it beats you
This part will also cost you $1000
In the boats, all the faces are stressed
Holding their breaths
Bracing their wounds
They’ve heard so much gunfire
They no longer feel anything
They no longer feel anything
Writing about As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, art critic Lyn Garder explained in The Guardian, “His tale doesn’t just touch me in a fleeting way – as the many stories and images reported in the newspapers do – it goes further. It marks me. For the next few days I will carry it around with me. It is part of me, not easily ignored or washed away. Every time I roll up my sleeves or wash my hands I am confronted by the images and rerun Zaraa’s story in my mind. I can’t get away from it.”
Journalist Lorna Irvine wrote in The List, “Every single delicate stroke of the pen’s nib carries weight – each figure inked onto skin represents the fight for survival, a symbol of solidarity, and the music is elegiac yet defiant, a beautiful testament to a struggle rewritten each day. And unlike the ink across the forearm, these struggles can never be erased.”
Live art performance for one audience member with Basel Zaraa
Song: Basel Zarra (vocals, bass and keyboards) with Emily Churchill Zaraa (vocals), Pete Churchill (music production) and Katie Stevens (flute and clarinet).
Production: “On the Move” LIFT 2016 in collaboration with Royal Court Theatre
Tania El Khoury
Tania El Khoury is a live artist whose work focuses on audience interactivity and is concerned with the ethical and political potential of such encounters. She creates installations and performances in which the audience is an active collaborator. Her solo work has toured internationally, and for which she is the recipient of the Anti Festival’s International Prize for Live Art, the Total Theatre Innovation Award, and the Arches Brick Award.
Tania holds a PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research and publications focus on the political dimension of interactive live art in the wake of the Arab uprisings.
Tania is associated with Forest Fringe collective of artists in the UK and is a co-founder of Dictaphone Group in Lebanon, a research and performance collective aiming at questioning our relationship to the city, and redefining its public space.
“The sensitivity of this artist’s work in orchestrating audience experience is extraordinary. It stays with us, is sometimes literally written onto us. She has foregrounded some of the burning questions of our time by creating resonant experiences that generate conversation and exchange. Tania’s work is urgently needed and we thank her for it.” Fiona Winning, International Live Art Prize Jury Chair.
Lois Keidan, co-founder of Live Art Development Agency wrote about Tania’s work: “Tania is one of the leading lights of a generation of UK based artists who are working with Live Art practices to reimagine what art can be, do and say, to test the ways in which it can be encountered and experienced, to invite us to consider our individual and collective agency, and to provoke conversations about issues and experiences that can be so difficult to talk about…
In the process of taking her audiences into such challenging and complex territories she has evolved a form of experiential art that offers us the most exquisite, embodied experiences that touch the core of our being, but that, at the same time, implicate us – asking us to question our role, responsibility, and complicity in such urgent and seismic geo-political events.”
Dates and time: Friday 15 June until Wednesday 20 June, 17:30-22:30. Except from Sunday 17 June, 11:00 – 13:00 & 18:00 – 21:00.
Space: Ιnfo Point – Kafeneio of Synikismos Festival
Address: Dardanellion str. & Meandrou str., Eleusis
Free admission. Entrance tickets are available from the Info Point – Kafeneio half an hour before the performance’s beginning or by phone reservation from Monday to Friday, 13:00 to 15:00 at +30 2105547646.
For the complete programme of Synikismos Festival, click here.