Paysages Chiraux de l’Exil / Chiral Landscapes of ExileCollaboration and co-creation, Filmed Performance, Textile Art
“Chiral Landscapes of Exile” (2020) is a film based on a performance by two visual artists, Eugenia Reznik and Patil Tchilinguirian. Eugenia was born in Kiev, Ukraine. Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, she left to settle in France and then in Canada. Patil, of Armenian origin, was born in Lebanon during the civil war, and left Beirut several times before settling in Montreal, Canada. These stories of displacement are totally different, yet they have many similarities. Their storytelling unfolds through the act of embroidery done with four hands. The artists communicate through the needle that carries the thread from one side to the other and pierces the fabric to form stitches. Separated by this linen cloth, the two artists unfold chiral tales of exile one stitch at a time, as if transgressing geographic borders. Nevertheless, the fabric becomes a canvas of dialogue instead, where the artists reveal their landscapes of origin, their journeys of displacement, the objects brought from their respective homes, and lastly their feelings of belonging to a place. While being poles apart, the stories mesh together and mirror one another with chirality.
Patil’s narrative has a particular commemorative resonance. At the time the performance was filmed, she recalls places in Beirut where she lived, that are unfortunately destroyed today, due to the explosion at the Beirut port on August 4, 2020.
This audiovisual piece testifies to the performative encounter of the two artists coming into direct contact while drawing on their different origins. At first, the artists feel overwhelmed beyond words as they share the red-threaded needle from one hand to the other piercing through the linen cloth separating them. Then the spoken word takes over, not in their mother tongues, but rather in French and English. Their memories and life paths cross over through these foreign languages. The red thread slowly woven and unwoven appears as a metaphor for the back and forth in this space. It draws the pathways of their journeys, anchoring stitches as pain points on a sensitive skin like membrane. As much a veil, as an epidermis, the linen fabric acts as a geographic barrier between the artists and also becomes a space of encounter and dialog.
This filmed performance is accompanied by another co-created work, entitled the “Wall of Displacements” (2022). It consists of two seemingly innocuous objects (a lunch box in copper, and a clock). The objects spoken about in the video, have followed the artists to this day in their loss of roots, and in the search for their origins. Hung on the wall next to the transcription of their intimate narrative, these objects question the fragility of material and immaterial cultural heritage.