Pleure-moi une rivière
A solo show by Eva Zornio

Being of the empathetic community

There are many dystopias in cinema or literature where emotions have disappeared or are strictly forbidden. In an aseptic universe, the two heroes of the film Equals try to live a love story, even though love and emotionality are considered dangerous pathologies for the social body. These fictions paint a portrait of apathetic and placid societies, in which the refusal of emotions amounts to denying all that is humane . The regression into oneself and the difficulties to relate, which permeates the current – and very real – society, are certainly the seeds of these dystopias, which all seem to carry a serious and sinister warning about our way of making society. Rare is it that these films or novels portray a cheerful or optimistic perspective. The future is not often rosy.

Eva Zornio’s exhibition Pleure-moi une rivière is a step aside in this greyness. Like a space-time capsule, it transports us into a futuristic universe, halfway between technology and mythology, resolutely soothing and meditative.

It is the bewitching song of a mermaid that guides us on the threshold of this portal, not to trap us but to welcome our body and its energies. The journey begins. The room is bathed in a soft pink light, in which the time of day or night no longer matters. Chronic stress evaporates almost instantly in this pastel hue, whose artificiality does not eliminate a possible reminiscence of fetal limbo. The visual repertoire of technology infuses here and there – from a mirrored screen, through one-way mirrors, to microscopic views – and hybridises with more magical forms – filamentous glass tears, magnetic sound waves.

Exploring the exhibition goes beyond the simple visit, to arrive, by the sensitive experience, to a form of real and new presence. A reconnection with the here and now, as well as a renewed presence to others and to ourselves. Indeed, with the works she brings together for this exhibition, Eva Zornio touches our emotions right in the heart, in what they allow us to «affect and be affected», to quote Spinoza. This «office of the future» that the exhibition creates is intended to arouse and receive our emotions, metamorphosing our regime of emotivity and de facto our ways of being in the world in mind and body. In the words of Michelle Rosaldo, the artist treats emotions as embodied thoughts, that is, as psychosomatic manifestations. The body thus delivers the emotional signs that run through us in various movements: laughter, tears, anger, but also contractions, oscillations, relaxations, beats.

The video To poke gently portrays the succession of these different emotional states: the whole of the performer’s upper body is mobilized by the emotional wave. This wave blurs the features of the face, makes the arms rise and the head lean backwards and forwards, jerks the breathing, agitates the hair. Our reference system of emotions then becomes deficient in face of the imposed indistinction: laughter and tears form a single whole, a cycle without beginning nor end. It is no longer sadness or joy, but a holistic emotional state. The difficulty and fragility of the ties we weave and unweave between individuals dissolves in this reconsideration of the values of emotions, finding there a resolution, almost primal. Not only does dancer Eve Chariatte succeed in holding this state of full emotional awareness, but she also manages to share it with us. Embedded in a mirror screen, her body mixes visually with ours, then our own mirror neurons perform the emotional translation: her laughter, even blurred, remains communicative. From this spontaneous sharing of emotions and the invisible links thus created, an emotional community emerges, to borrow Barbara Rosenwein’s historiographic concept. Human groups find themselves thus united in the power of circulation and adhesion of the emotions. Animated by the affects of circumstance, they compose another social landscape, more organic, made of crossings and interpenetrations. The visitors of this exhibition, in a conscious or unconscious way, will then share a community, for which it is the capacity of empathy that weaves the link.

Paramecium’s death proves that the adaptive movements, which according to Antonio Damasio are the root of emotions, can also be experienced by unicellular organisms. Placed under the microscope, these paramecia form a constellation that seems to frantically become more compact as they approach the danger that ultimately dooms them.

This empathy connects us to others, but Eva Zornio also offers the possibility of taking an empathetic look at oneself, of considering one’s own emotions with sincerity and benevolence. Mirrors in the space allow us to look ourselves in the face, to accept that part of ourselves that is sometimes as foreign to us as others and that it is easier to ignore or even reject. In Friday or the Wild Life, Robinson Crusoe finds a mirror, but can no longer smile, his isolation having erased his expressive abilities. What about us?

Will we be able to smile in front of the mirror? Perhaps we will shed a tear that will turn into a pearl as in Japanese mythology? Maybe the glass tears scattered in the exhibition space are those of the previous travellers…

Andréanne Béguin

From 10 to 24 November 2022
Photos: Danny Leal
Translation: Yasemin Imre
Graphic design: Agathe Frasson-Cochet
Acknowledgements: Andréanne Béguin, Eve Chariatte, Arnaud Dezoteux, Agathe Frasson-Cochet, Emilie Moor, Axelle Stiefl, Dylan Wasem, Maxine Yolanda
With the support of the Fonds cantonal d’art contemporain, DCS, Genève.

After first completing a degree in Biology and a master’s degree in neuroscience, Eva Zornio’s focus is in the field of arts. Circulating between institutions and independent structures, she performed at the Swiss Institute in Rome (2019). She exhibited at the Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard (2019), at Kunsthaus Langenthal (2019), and at Forde (2018). In 2020 she participated in the exhibition of the Bourses de la Ville de Genève at the Centre d’Art Contemporain and she was nominated for the Swiss Art Awards 2021. In 2022 she exhibited at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen and was selected for the 2023 publication of the Cahiers d’Artistes of Pro Helvetia.