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As Far As My Fingertips Take Me: In Conversation with Tania El Khoury

“The whole idea of interactivity is to flirt with randomness. The political potential of interactivity is to allow the audience to shift the piece into something else.”

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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. Tania’s work has been translated to multiple languages and shown in 32 countries across six continents in spaces ranging from museums to cable cars. She is the recipient of the International Live Art Prize 2017, the Total Theatre Innovation Award, and the Arches Brick Award 2011. Tania holds a PhD from Royal Holloway, University of London. Her research and publications focus on the political potential of interactive live art. Tania is currently a visiting professor and festival co-curator at Bard College’s Fisher Center. She 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.

Tania El Khoury brings, As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, to Freehand New York. 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 were first recorded, without any regard to their needs, desires, or plans.

Photo courtesy of Tania El Khoury