Paris Tear Sheets is the blog of ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist-in-Residence, Lara Atallah, who will be undertaking her residency in Paris during July and August 2015. “Paris tear sheets” refers to daily snapshots taken during the artist’s peregrinations in the city. She will use the blog to chronicle her encounters in Paris as well as her observations of the city.
You can find more information about ArtSlant's Georgia Fee Artist/Writer Residency here.
I was introduced to Hind through a common friend. Upon meeting her, the first thing that struck me, after her heart-warming hospitality, was the tattoo on her forearm. I asked candidly: “What is ‘hiraeth’?” I was far from expecting that the answer I would receive would lead me to naming this iteration of Tales of a Non-Country after that conversation.
Similar to the Galician word “saudade,” “hiraeth” is a Welsh word referring to the longing one feels for a home one cannot go back to. I reflected on the degree of conviction required in order to make an indelible mark on one’s own body. Acknowledging such a sentiment predicates a self-assigned exile that is not to be confused with displacement or dispossession in which the subject lacks the luxury of choice. A pre-existing level of privilege conditions self-assigned exile. However, it also places its subjects in their own category within the overarching umbrella of a diaspora.
In a lot of ways, “hiraeth” became the subject underlying many of our conversations. Speaking with Hind, I felt like I had found a mirror voice. Unlike, others I’ve met before her, Hind does not long for a home she sees through rose-colored glasses. The statement does not necessarily speak to all those in her age group who have left the country. That said, hers is an opinion that I have encountered among many. While the longing for a home persists, it is also amalgamated to an understanding that home will have to be elsewhere.
Can there be a way back once you’ve left? The bigger question is: would you want it? Within that context, the idea of defining identity resurfaces. Expatriation implies a certain negotiation of one’s identity and a perpetual editing process that stems from events and people encountered in a foreign setting radically different than the one that the expat had been immersed in since birth.
We started spending more time together as the weeks were leading up to her yearly visit back home. I was invited to her apartment by the Moulin Rouge. The voyeur in me gleans all the little details: books, the disco ball in the living room, the photographs on closet doors. There’s something oddly joyous about building the puzzle of a person’s life based on the clues they leave in their environment. Entering another person’s world is both gleeful and terrifying. It supposes agreeing to carry some of their secrets but implies also a camaraderie without which photographs would fail.
Lara Atallah (born Beirut, Lebanon, based in Brooklyn, NY) is a visual artist working with photography. You can find the full list of blog posts from her Paris residency here. Additional images from Lara's residency are on Instagram, #paristearsheets.
(All images: Lara Atallah)