Dictaphone Group is a research and performance collective that creates live art events based on multidisciplinary study of space. It is a collaborative project initiated by live artist Tania El Khoury and architect/urbanist Abir Saksouk. Together along with various collaborators such as performance artist and producer Petra Serhal, they have been creating site specific performances informed by research in a variety of places like a cable car, a fisherman’s boat, and a discontinued bus. The aim of these projects is to question our relationship to the city, and redefine its public space.
Tania El Khoury
Tania is a live artist working in London and Beirut. She creates interactive installations and challenging performances in which the audience is an active collaborator. Tania’s solo work has toured internationally, and for which she is the recipient of the Total Theatre Innovation Award and the Arches Brick Award. She is currently working on a practice-based PhD. Her research and publications focus on the political function of interactive live art with a focus on the Arab Uprisings.
Abir is an architect and urbanist. She has been involved in several research projects in Lebanon, including the history of informal suburbs, the social production of shared spaces in the city, and more recently housing rights in Beirut. She is interested in exploring how community engagement could be employed in planning and actively shaping the future of cities. She is also co-founder of Public Works Studio (2012).
Petra Serhal is a performance maker and actress. She She regularly collaborates with artists and filmmakers. In 2010, she started her collaboration with Dictaphone Group. Petra is interested in the performativity of the choreographed body, the representation of the violated body, as well as creating interactive spaces with the audience. She recently published an essay entitled, "Beware of the Image" in Ibraaz.
In the context of Lebanon, the ironies of the civil war did not spare the 1990s reconstruction projects and policies. Across Beirut, the city where we live, forms would emerge with disregard to history and social context. We witnessed how decisions were made at upper levels to maintain development friendly and “clean” spaces in the city at the expense of the undesirable classes and their right to public spaces. These abrupt transformations have heightened our sensitivity to space. We quickly grew more aware of the mechanisms by which social relations, politics, economics, history, and legislation conflated in the creation of boundaries in the places that we inhabit.
Based on this understanding, Dictaphone Group produces multi-disciplinary research on space to inform and create live art pieces as a means to comment on and re-imagine these urban landscapes.
“Natures of your kind, those with strong and delicate senses, the inspired, the dreamers, poets, lovers, are almost always superior to us [people] of intellect… Your kind live life to the full, to you is given the power of love and the capacity to experience. We intellectuals, although we often appear to lead and govern you others, do not live life to the full. We live a parched existence… Your home is the earth, ours is the idea. Your danger is of drowning in the world of the senses, ours of suffocating in a vacuum. You are an artist, I am a thinker. ” – Herman Hesse from Narcissus and Goldmund
Bridging the fields of social scientific research and live art is our process and practice. We borrow tools from activism and audience interactivity, we create forms ranging from site-specific performances and city walks to videos, lectures and publications. We produce knowledge on space and build a collective memory with contested spaces in the city.