Stories Of Refuge

Video from the installation “Stories Of Refuge”, a collaboration between artists from Dictaphone Group and Syrian asylum seekers in Munich.

Stories of Refuge is an audio-video installation that tells the story of three Syrian asylum seekers who fled Syria and sought refuge in Munich, Germany.

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

Tania El Khoury is a live artist working in London and Beirut. She creates interactive installations and challenging performances in which the audience is an active collaborator.

The participants were:

A twenty-six-year-old man who had been in Munich for seven months. He had not yet been granted legal 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. He was hoping to use a family-reunification clause to bring his family to Munich.

A twenty-five-year-old mother of two who had been in Munich for two months. She and her two children initially lived with another randomly selected family in the Yellow Camp, but subsequently moved into a room exclusively for her family in what is referred to as the “temporary camp.” She was waiting for 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, while another young relative was battling cancer, and there was no water to access. Smugglers scammed all of them, lying to them, suddenly changing plans, simply leaving them behind—never prioritizing their safety.

Dictaphone Group gave each of the three participants a small discreet video camera that they smuggled into their camps, and asked them to film a day in their lives as asylum seekers in Munich. Dictaphone Group also asked them to take them to their favorite spot in the city. They recorded an interview with each of them, which serves as the soundscape over the footage that they created. The installation is designed to show inside a shipping container with three bunk beds.

The installation Stories of Refuge was also featured at Cities as Community Spaces in the frame of Valletta 2018 – European Capital of Culture, 23 — 25 November 2016 Valletta, Malta.

The central objective of this conference is to bring together researchers, cultural practitioners and policy makers to share knowledge about the social dynamics through which space (public, private and virtual) serves as a site of discourse, contestation and critical reflection within and between communities.

Previous Shows

Spielart Festival, Munich, 2013
Festival Pergine, Italy, 2014
Festival Bo:M, South Korea, 2015

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


About The Author
- Project Manager InEnArt