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The Fisher Center at Bard Presents AS FAR AS ISOLATION GOES (ONLINE)

This virtual, interactive work tells the stories of mental and physical health experiences of refugees in the United Kingdom.

The Fisher Center at Bard Presents AS FAR AS ISOLATION GOES (ONLINE)

The Fisher Center at Bard will present Tania El Khoury and Basel Zaraa's As Far As Isolation Goes (Online), a performance that uses touch, sound, and interactivity to bring audience members into contact with those faced with inhumane detention centers and a mental health system that disregard their political and emotional contexts (February 24-March 21). Isolation continues Bard's 2020-2021 season of virtual and interactive works and marks the beginning of El Khoury's time as Distinguished Artist in Residence of Theater and Performance at Bard and as the new director of the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts, based at Bard. El Khoury also co-curated last season's Live Arts Bard Biennial, Where No Wall Remains, a four-day festival on the subject of bordners and how we might in time transcend them.

Tickets for As Far As Isolation Goes (Online) are $20 and $5 for Bard students (made possible by the Passloff Pass), and can be purchased here. The performance will be available on the Fisher Center's online venue, UPSTREAMING.

First commissioned by Sick of the Fringe for presentation in London in 2019 and reimagined during the pandemic as a virtual work for the 2020 Gateshead International Festival of Theatre, the piece is built from El Khoury and Zaraa's original, Bessie Award-winning collaboration entitled As Far As My Fingertips Take Me. For that work, El Khoury commissioned Zaraa to record a rap song inspired by the journey his sisters made from Damascus (where he was born a refugee in the Yarmouk Camp) to Sweden. In As Far As Isolation Goes (Online), Zaraa and El Khoury transfer the framework of Fingertips towards a focus on mental and physical health experiences of refugees, with a new song inspired by conversations with Zaraa's friends and colleagues who have claimed refuge in the U.K.

Says El Khoury, "As Far As My Fingertips Take Me was about the journey that people make in order to reach safety; this piece asks what happens to them after they reach that supposedly 'safe place'-one whose institutions fail to consider their circumstances, their personal traumas and collective traumas. We often forget the lasting mental effect detention centers have on people; I've seen incredibly strong activists broken by the bureaucracy of being put in some detention center in the middle of nowhere near an airport with no kind of plan. We hope this piece opens up a conversation about what happens to people's mental and physical health after they relocate."

Zaraa performed the original performance, As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, unseen. He recounted stories of displacement and migration through a hole in a wall, across which participants' arms would outstretch-and become canvases for Zaraa's experiential illustrations. "Basel and I joke that people need to be touched physically and literally to feel involved," says El Khoury. Initially, Isolation took the same form, but when the pandemic necessitated lockdowns and social distancing, they were asked to adapt the tactile work online, and its emphasis on isolation became echoed in its form-one where touch is an impossibility, distance an inevitability. A series of invitations is delivered across screens; participants listen and try to emulate Zaraa's drawing along their own arms.

Says Zaraa, "With every arm I draw on, I am trying to tell the story of myself, my family and my people, who are living in an endless loop of exile and loss. Even when refugees arrive somewhere new, thinking they are about to start again, they face new barriers, including the reality of detention, isolation, loneliness and the language barrier. As Far As Isolation Goes is about the difficult journey that begins after refugees 'arrive', and the impact it has on their mental health."

Responding to the events of 2020, the projects in this season at the Fisher Center explore and reflect on what it means to live through and create work in the midst of a pandemic, global crises, and political turmoil. From multimedia performances, rituals, and political actions to classical music, interactive live art, and dance on film, this season at Bard broadens the potential of virtual performance across genres. Audiences will be invited to experience and engage with each of these projects in entirely different ways, yet together the season seeks to build community and activism in isolation.


Produced by Artsadmin

Song Conception: Basel Zaraa

Music Production: Peter Churchill

Vocals and Lyrics: Jazzar & Shamma Iqbal

Wall Writing: Steaz

Image: Basel Zaraa

Work originally commissioned by the Sick of the Fringe 2019. Online version commissioned by GIFT 2020.

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