Stories of Refuge


Stories of Refuge – Munich / Beirut
Dictaphone Group
Live Art Installation

Beginning in the 1960s, Munich was the arrival point of migrant workers from all destinations, and from there the “migrants” would be transported to their next unknown destinations. They had no say in where they would end up. In many cases, families were torn apart. Their new destination was a temporary camp where they were medically checked and behaviourally tested. From there, the factory was the beginning of their new lives.

Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011, Syrian refugees have been fleeing the brutality of the regime in Syria and searching for new destinations, Munich being one of them. Many of these asylum seekers arrive to Munich by land, crossing unofficial borders, through different European countries.

Tania El Khoury and Petra Serhal from Dictaphone Group collaborated with a group of Syrian refugees who recently arrived in Munich. They gave each of these participants/collaborators a camera for a day, their only instructions being to film their daily lives in Munich and their favourite spots in the city. Together, they produced videos that were presented in the public space in the city.

The three people who participated in what would become the Stories of Refuge project and chose to remain anonymous are: a twenty-six-year-old man who has been in Munich for seven months but has not yet been granted residency; a sixteen-year-old boy who had just arrived in town and was hoping to be granted residency before he reaches the age of eighteen so he could use a family-reunification clause and bring his family to Munich; a twenty-five-year-old mother of two who had been in Munich for two months, initially lived with another randomly selected family in the Yellow Camp, and recently moved into a room exclusively for her family in what is referred to as the “temporary camp” while they wait for their residency papers and a transfer to long-term accommodations.

All three of these individuals had paid large amounts of money to be smuggled into Germany. They survived near-death experiences. One of them was injured during a demonstration in Syria, and fled the country by means of a boat that ended up sinking in the sea killing half of its passengers. One of them had to walk from Syria to Turkey for hours on end with children in hand, another young relative who was battling cancer, and no water. Smugglers scammed all of them, lying to them, suddenly changing plans, simply leaving them behind—never prioritizing their safety.

Stories of Refuge is an immersive video installation, inviting audience to lay down on metal bunk beds and watch the videos shot by the asylum seekers.

Dictaphone Group

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.

According to Dictaphone Group: “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.

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. The aim of these projects is to question our relationship to the city, and redefine its public space.

Concept and Video Editing: Tania El Khoury
Devised with Petra Serhal
Videos shot by anonymous asylum seekers
Commissioned by Spielart Festival 2013

Dates and time: Friday 15 June until Sunday 24 June, 17:00-21:00. Except from Sunday 17 June & Sunday 24 June, 11:00 – 14:00 & 17:00 – 21:00.
Space: 3rd Elementary School of Eleusis
Address: 85, Dardanellion str., Eleusis

For the complete programme of Synikismos Festival, click here.