Interactive art installation, Gardens Speak provides a powerful (and very important) exercise in empathy. It’s a unique and deeply moving experience, affording participants plenty to think on and will not easily be forgotten.
When we are bombarded with statistics and daily television footage from war-zones, just how do you find a personal connection? Tania El Khoury seeks to bridge this gap through Gardens Speak, inviting us into the individual stories of those killed in Syria, where we can find this personal meaning.
It’s an immersive experience that literally has you digging in the dirt, a garden plot representing the private graves of those killed in the uprising, unable receive public burial under the Assad regime.
Everything about the experience is carefully and thoughtfully constructed, with a focus on participation and soundscape. We are not passive consumers of a distant tragedy here, we are enveloped by it, providing an opportunity to connect with one story in a very real way.
Importantly, we are given the opportunity to respond to the person’s story at the end, making for a well-rounded experience and one that has a life beyond the 45 minutes spent at the installation.
With the capacity to stir our hearts and challenge our thinking, Gardens Speak is a perfect piece for an arts festival. It continues until 19 March at the Queen’s Theatre, but with only ten participants per session, book in advance before it sells out.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor