The Source for Media Coverage of The Arts in Miami.
Articles, reviews, previews and features on dance and music performances and events.
Sign Up
No one logged in. Log in

Immersion Installations For Art Week


Photo:
Written by: Elizabeth Hanly
Article Rating

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting.

Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only come alive with an audience.” She is asking her audience to listen to the voices of the dead. And not just hear them, but to lie on the graves of them, and literally dig through dirt to be able to listen more carefully.

These stories came from the apocalypse that is Syria today, but El Khoury understands that destruction on this scale is largely incomprehensible. So she has chosen to tell the stories of ordinary folks – 10 of them -- caught up in the brutal war.

Still, how to make even these few stories sufficiently tell the tales?

In Syria, burial itself has become politicized. Before a body can be interred in a cemetery, families may be asked to sign a paper stating that state security forces had nothing to do with the death. Often this is blatantly untrue. In acts of resistance, families began burying their lost ones in back-yard gardens.

It was witnessing this first-hand that inspired El Khoury to create “Gardens Speak.”

And so, in what is a polar opposite from the glam world of Art Basel, the audience enters a darkened anteroom at the Gleason in the Fillmore on South Beach. You are accompanied by no more than 10 others. Off to the side is a rack with hooded rain gear. Put on a cloak, then sit on a rough wooden bench. A basket will be passed around. Choose a card from it. This is the woman/man whose story you will hear.

Go further into the dark; in the center of this second room are 10 modest grave-stones. You are asked now to seek the one whose name you hold in your hand. This alone is unsettling, but nothing like what comes next, in a “field” of loose earth.

One can read about lying on ground atop a grave, but these accounts can’t describe how cold the earth feels. As one unburies the story underneath, as one listens to a story, told as it is in the first-person, as five, ten, fifteen minutes pass, the earth seems to become increasingly cold, unrelentingly so. Finally there is grace, as the sound of something holy fills the room, a chant, a cry for mercy or perhaps the promise of it. You are able to linger in it. Then, as the penultimate step in the ritual -- for sacred rites are surely what are evoked here -- one is invited to leave a note in the earth for others who will come to listen as well as for the family of the dead to read.

As the audience returns to the ante-room, small basins of water have been prepared to wash feet and hands. However practical and even generous this is for festival goers, it didn’t really make this reviewer feel clean. I felt more melancholy after the performance than others who spoke of being energized for “the good fight” against authoritarianism wherever it is found.

Leaving aside the themes of her work, El Khoury’s use of embodied symbol is nothing less than a tour-de-force. It places her in the tradition of another female artist, Miami’s icon Ana Mendieta.

El Khoury has a second installation at Art Basel. This one --“As Far as My Fingertips Take Me” -- is smaller, quieter and less well-known. Here you’ll be on your own. No group, however small, can support your experience. There is a small room with an oval opening in a wall, where you insert your arm. While hearing a story of a young man, a refugee, unwelcome in the U.S., you feel slight pressures on those out-stretched fingers. Then come the tiny, barely noticeable pin-pricks up and down the arm. Islamic calligraphy, one wonders? You can’t see what is happening since all this occurs on the other side of the wall. When you can see, it is a linear silhouette, one so lovely it looks at first like the designs applied to the skin at the time of a marriage in many cultures -- again, it is easily washed away. Or is it? On closer inspection, the drawing is a line of refugees, some with children. The allusion to the Holocaust is unmistakable.

I found this installation both more terrible and more hopeful than “Gardens.” Perhaps because while war and Syria seem intractable, the refugee crisis does seem like something one can affect in whatever small way.

In any case, I cannot quite bring myself to wash off El Khoury’s drawing.

IF YOU GO:

What: “Gardens Speak”

Where: Gleason Room at the Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

When: Dec. 7-8 at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.;
Dec 9 at 12. pm., 1 pm, 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m.
Info: only 10 tickets available for each show; cost $28

What: “As Far as My Fingertips Take Me”

Where: Clinton Room at the New World Center, 500 17th St., Miami Beach

When: Dec 7-8, 5:30 -7:30 p.m., 8 -10 p.m.; Dec 9: 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. and 4 – 6 p.m.

Info: very limited tickets available per time block. Performance is one-on-one and lasts approximately 15 minutes; cost $15.

 


Leave a comment...
Must be Logged in
No one logged in. Log in
Leave a comment...
Was this helpful?
No Very

Captcha Image

About The writer

{module_webapps,16730,i,{tag_writer_id}}

Revivals are hot on Broadway these days with “CATS”and “Hello, Dolly!“once again gracing the Great White Way. There is a certain nostalgia in taking a second or even third viewing of a belove..

What happens when urban dance style meets classical music? We’ll find out when Brooklyn-based hip-hop dance troupe Decadancetheater takes the stage, backed by Miami’s own experimental classic..

“What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to not want to belong?” These are questions that choreographer Reggie Wilson contemplates in his provocative piece “CITIZEN,“ which makes its M..

If even a modicum of redemption can be forged from the hellish after-effects of gun violence, we must listen to the communities most affected by the violence. To this end, “Trigger,” a hip-ho..

Celebrating 35 years is an amazing achievement for any dance company in Miami, but especially one founded in a decade better known for its ties to drugs than to the arts. Momentum Dance Compa..

For Tigertail Productions, April is the month of fire. Like their WATER Festival in 2016, this month’s FIRE Festival celebrates a single element in multiple art forms, including dance, visual..

During the month of April the organizers of the seventh iteration of the O Miami Poetry Festival intend every resident of Miami Dade county to encounter a poem or – even better – write one! An..

As the “home-grown” sweetheart of Miami City Ballet, Patricia Delgado is having her final performances this season before leaving the city and the company she loves to move to New York City.H..

Even people who can’t find Argentina on a map and believe tangos only happen in Paris know La Cumparsita’s iconic four beat opening. Like a bar’s last call, La Cumparsita tells tango dancers ..

Miami City Ballet will conclude its season this week with a rich selection of repertory pieces: two from Balanchine, in very expressive but distinct modes, and one from modern-dance master Pa..

Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s studio evokes the feel of a tablao in Spain. The strumming of the guitar, the rapid-fire rhythms of footwork against the floor, and the soft voice of the singer reac..

Miami choreographer Augusto Soledade has been a fixture in the local dance world since he arrived here in 2004. His cast has shifted over the years and he continues to challenge himself artis..

In one duet, two dancers use their bodies as counterweights, springing forth from each other’s bodies with explosive power. In another, dancers form a sharp line before torsos undulate and fa..

Teacher, choreographer and activist Dale Andree is known for her ability to merge activism with dance. Andree founded and directs National Water Dance, a site-specific project that joins danc..

In 2016, Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance company crossed their 25-year mark. To celebrate, the company returns to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with a 25th anniversary..

From singers like Joan Baez to poets like Maya Angelou to anonymous knitters of pink pussy hats, creative women have played an essential role in this country as agitators and activists. Likew..

When Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) takes the stage this weekend, it will present a program rich in the cultural milieu of Miami. Co-founders Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra i..

It is an awe-inspiring experience to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers perform. They are well trained dancers, athletes and artists. Not often known is that some of the dance..

Back for an 8th season in Miami, the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater packs the house every year. With Liberty City hometown hero Robert Battle in his fifth year, we have many rea..

Awash in sunlight, around 50 women stand in a circle on the rooftop performance space of Casa Gaia in Old Havana, Cuba, as part of a belly-dance festival. Biodanza facilitator Karen Rodríguez..

Choreographer Jeanguy Saintus works primarily from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but his creative work has global appeal. He is a pioneering artist who blends Haiti’s traditional music and dance alo..

New life for a legacy ballet—a veritable choreographer-magnet—created a great buzz about Miami City Ballet’s third program this season. But at the Arsht Center for the Performing ..

Who doesn’t delight in fairies? Miami City Ballet, for the success of its third program of the season, is certainly banking on one. And, instead of wielding a magic wand, she comes eager to p..

Transgendered performance artist Scott Turner Schofield is a collector of stories. Growing up in the South, the tales that were told about the gay and trans community were the ugliest kind of..

The Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores is giving experimental dancer-choreographer Lazaro Godoy the opportunity to interweave his visual arts and performance passions in ArMOUR, a multimedi..

The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet artistic director Tom Mossbrucker and executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty have thrilled audiences world wide with stimulating and exciting performances, and Miam..

The future came a long time ago. That impression arose in two forward-pointing yet decades-old company premieres on Miami City Ballet’s second program of the season. In the opening performanc..

Ira Sullivan has been a musician for a long time. His father, part of a large musical family, was in the restaurant business. But he played trumpet for fun and stored his horn behind the couch, Su..

The music of Thelonious Monk has been a source of endless fascination and with good reason. Monk’s universe has its own laws. Beautifully constructed and quirky, soulful but also paced by br..

The first time the Amernet performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” during Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter -- the string quartet played in darkness. Just hours before, cellist Jas..

Drummer Dafnis Prieto and pianist Omar Sosa closed this year’s Global Cuba Fest at the Light Box in Wynwood, Miami, with shows on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 that suggested a sort of mus..

Mention flamenco and the immediate associations are with dancing, singing and the guitar. The piano has a rather tentative history in flamenco. While some scholars include the instrument in p..

The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming comes to Miami this Friday, with Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally, getting ..

It’s not by chance that the music of Cuban drummer, composer, educator and bandleader Dafnis Prieto unfolds with such purpose. An accidental immigrant in 1999 — he was living with ..

In the music of Las Cafeteras and Orkesta Mendoza, presented by Fundarte at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Saturday, the border is no place for walls but rather, a moveable feast. ..

Performance Hall at New World Center was packed Saturday, Feb. 3 for the New Work program, which NWS conductor and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas introduced as “one of the more adve..

"Nosotros sentimos, y pensamos que Jennifer y Carlos sienten igual, que Miami finalmente ha llegado a posicionarse como una verdadera ciudad cultural donde continuamente se presentan compañías imp..

El grupo de danza contemporánea Brazzdance dirigido por su fundador, el coreógrafo Augusto Soledade, se presentó el sábado 31 de marzo en el Carnival Studio Theatre del Arsht Center de Miami...

La undécima edición del Flamenco Festival que se desarrolló del jueves 8 al domingo 11 de marzo en el Arsht Center resultó ser un hermoso reencuentro con el Ballet Nacional de España (BNE), u..

Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida (ABTF) y su escuela de ballet adjunta, ambas bajo la dirección de Vladimir Issaev, se encuentran por estos días entregadas de lleno a la celebración del bicente..

El lugar privilegiado que ocupa Miami hoy en día en el mundo de la danza no tiene discusión. Además de contar con una vibrante oferta local de proyección internacional que dura todo el año y ..

Después de una serie de actuaciones muy exitosas en varias ciudades del Este del país, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) llega a Miami para ofrecer seis presentaciones del jueves 22 ..

La ofensiva espontánea protagonizada por BalletBoyz y Cie. Herve Koubi el fin de semana pasado en teatros de Fort Laudedarle y Miami, con dos propuestas artísticas absolutamente fuera de seri..

La atracción principal del tercer programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) que se presentó el fin de semana pasado en el Arsht Center fue el estreno mundial de One Line ..

Llegados en vuelo directo desde Inglaterra, BalletBoyz (Premio Nacional de Danza 2013 a la Mejor Compañía Independiente) ofrecerá el sábado 10 de febrero una función patrocinada por Culture Shock ..