Art As Politics in Beirut

Dictaphone Group is a research and performance collective that creates live art performances based on a multidisciplinary study of space. It is a collaborative project initiated by live artist Tania El Khoury and architect and urbanist Abir Saksouk. Together with various collaborators such as performer and producer Petra Serhal, they have been creating site-specific performances informed by research in a variety of places such as a cable car, a fisherman’s boat, and a decommissioned bus. This conversation was conducted in Beirut in May 2014 between researcher Layal Ftouni and Tania El Khoury, Abir Saksouk and Petra Serhal from Dictaphone Group.

Tania El Khoury: I personally never created work for theatres or “neutral” spaces. I am interested in devising work that is site-specific, and that uses the city’s landscapes as scenography. We started our collaboration in 2009. We wanted to bring together two quite different mediums—urban research and live art—to produce knowledge about our relationship to the city and its public spaces. Simultaneously, we wanted to act and interfere in that space. We find matters concerning accessibility to public space integral to our right to the city. For example, it is unacceptable that our access to the sea in Beirut is restricted and limited. Making site-specific performances based on multidisciplinary research on space is our chosen medium of info-activism. I believe in making art-as-politics, the sort of art that not only discusses politics, but constitutes a political event in itself.

Tarik Sabry and Layal Ftouni, Arab Subcultures: Transformations in Theory and Practice, 2017

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