When all is uprooted, does one stay to fight… or take flight? What of those who have always lived on the move, away from enclosures, family and field, census and consensus, monoculture and monolingualism, law and lord? What does it mean to live on the run?
The Only Thing Left is to Leave is an international commissioning project supported by the Keir Foundation, co-developed by Firstdraft and Beirut Art Center. The first part of this project is an online iteration featuring four artist commissions, co-developed by Firstdraft and Beirut Art Center. The second part of this project will materialise as a live performance program co-developed by Firstdraft and Arab Theatre Studio, launching in March in partnership with Art Month Sydney.
The online component features four newly commissioned video works by Eddie Abd, Roy Dib, Morgan Hogg, and Chrystèle Khodr, individually premiering on Instagram TV from 28 February. Each of these interdisciplinary artists interrogates what paths are trodden and social formations woven, what common practices are formulated and networks of sustenance formed, when we move.
How can we draw from a lexicon of motion and emotion generated by migration? What shared values might they converge towards, and what dispositions might they propose towards a planetary condition?
Roy Dib’s to-camera video work Nafas,2021 sets up a tense and humorous frontal monologue. Listening to queues via earphones, the actor offers personal and social reflections about sex, trauma, anger, and smoking.
Chrystèle Khodr’s Happy Ever After,2021 is a screen recording of an endless navigation through a curated Instagram feed of self-help and lifestyle accounts. The artist’s voice-over converses with an unknown interlocutor about fresh starts and new beginnings.
Eddie Abd’s textural Diasporic Remix #01, 2021, layers dashcam footage, home videos, and the artists’ characteristic etched drawings within a soundscape of recorded phone calls, car radio, and song. Beginning in Lebanon, the video winds through roads in the artist’s home town of Jbeil, transitioning seamlessly into the concrete motorways that snake towards her new home in the suburbs of Western Sydney. It is a digital tapestry, a portrait of a home woven together from another home, that is neither here nor there, both disparate and diasporic.
Similarly, Morgan Hogg’s two-part performance video series, Ariki Vaine, 2021, layers archival video with filmed performance as a practice of connecting Indigenous, ancestral knowledge with contemporary storytelling – a digital suturing of the wounds inflicted by colonisation on cultural memory. As a biracial artist raised in Australia, Hogg employs dance as a practice to connect with her Cook Island heritage – a kind of remembrance through movement, and movement towards understanding.
The Only Thing Left is to Leave gathers artists across generations and timezones, whose practices hover and migrate – through digital and physical space, between trauma and reconciliation, from birthplaces to homes. For these artists, movement is an end in itself, a generative process of migration, scrolling, interrogation, and arrival.