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Courtney Kessel, Trisolini Gallery Coordniator, demostrates the As Far As My Fingertips Take Me gallery on Tuesday.

Performative art exhibit to open in Trisolini Gallery

Correction appended. 

Tania El Khoury is a live artist who created a new interactive performance art, and she will be presenting a piece named “As Far As My Fingertips Take Me.” 

The performance, which will first take place Friday in the Trisolini Gallery, is an encounter between one audience member and an artist. The audience member will place their arm in a hole in a wall, and the artist will touch their arm and paint a group of people walking together. The participant will be given headphones during the process, which will play an introduction as well as a song. 

El Khoury went to theatre school and received a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a PhD in theatre. However, she was never interested in the format of theatre, so she never did anything related to it after obtaining her degrees. El Khoury has worked with interactive pieces, and has always been interested in one-on-one performances. 

El Khoury said she is looking forward to getting students and others directly involved in the month-long exhibit.

El Khoury’s husband, Ziad Abu-Rish, is an assistant professor of history at OU who also directs the Middle East and North Africa Studies program. She has worked and lived in both Lebanon and London, and now exhibits her work all over the world. But when she comes to North America, she usually comes to OU.

The original performer in the piece is Basel Zaraa, a British artist who was born a Palestinian refugee in Damascus. Zaraa plays a song that he recorded while painting on the audience’s arm, both of which describe his experience as a refugee. The encounter between the audience member and artist is 10 minutes long. Zaraa will not be able to attend the Trisolini Gallery show, so two artists will take his place.

Courtney Kessel is the gallery coordinator for the art gallery in Seigfred Hall, as well as the Trisolini Gallery in Baker Center. Kessel organizes all of the art shows, and installs and uninstalls them. Most of the art shows on campus are either annual or student-based. In the past couple of years, several faculty members have retired from the School of Art and Design, so solo shows of their work have been shown in the Trisolini Gallery. 

Kessel discovered El Khoury through Jennie Klein, a professor of art history. Klein writes blogs for festivals all over the world, and she discovered El Khoury at one of those festivals. She later brought El Khoury to sit in on a class. 

“As a performance artist myself, I was interested in listening to her speak when she came in and sat in on a class,” Kessel said.

Kessel brought El Khoury’s name to the Kennedy Museum of Art; and since then, half of the museum has featured video installations of her work. 

“I really loved her work, and I didn’t know it before,” Kessel said. 


Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly identified the collaborator and performer of the piece. Additionally, it misquoted Khoury and misstated what she had created. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information. 

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