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Suzanna Spertsyan

photographed by grisha petrosyan

Suzanna jan, where are we now? tell us about the history of this house.

Well, we are standing in the garden of my grandfather's, my maternal grandfather's house in Teghut, Tavush region in Armenia. This is a house where my mother and her two siblings grew up and spent most of their youth. It's also a place that is very dear to my heart because I kept, having grown up abroad, I kept going to this house practically every summer for vacation. So, this was a place where I really spent most of my Armenian childhood, let's say so, in parenthesis. This is where I played the most with Armenian kids, spoke Armenian the most, had Armenian neighbors, understood what an Armenian style community is. And this is where I got to get to know my grandfather the most because living far apart and belonging to different generations and cultural contexts, created a situation where we didn't know each other so well. So only when I came to this house and stayed with him that I was able to dig a little deeper into my family history and also just explore the land and this very different style of living.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now since we are here only for a couple of days and you don't live here, right?

No, I don't live in Armenia. I grew up in Belarus where my parents moved when I was around 4 years old until my early 20s and then I moved abroad by myself and in the last 10 years I've lived in Moscow, Paris, New York and now it's been 5 years that I'm back to Paris and I'm based there.

How do you feel when you go back to this place and how do you perceive this space? It is not a home, so what is it? Or is it a home to you?

I think growing up in a constant sort of migration and choosing to be an immigrant multiple times in my life has kind of made me a person that no longer seeks a stable sense of home and the notion itself transformed for me. So, in that sense I'd say I do feel very much at home in this house and I associate it with home because I associate it with my family. I'm very close with my mother's sister, my aunt and I do hold very dear memories from my childhood that are related to this house. So, in a way, yes, I do feel at home here but it's rather a place of escape and I think we all need this kind of place where we can run away and feel like kids again.

What is the dearest thing to your heart in this place and what do you do when you get here every time?

I think it's the quality of air. My favorite thing is to force myself, because I'm not really an early bird, to wake up really early and go out on the balcony and to sort of just look around and see, you know, hear the neighbors waking up, like the cowherds going, you know, on their business, the possibly, I don't know, birds singing, whatever it is, just to hear the village wake up and go about its things, to breathing the fresh air. Then it doesn't matter how early I'd wake up, my aunt is already up and she's possibly brewing coffee and, you know, showing up with things to eat at 6 a.m., like totally normal, you know, trying to feed me. There's an abundance of nature all around the village and you live in such proximity with nature, which is not exactly the case in Paris or most of the places where I've spent most of my life. Like I feel when I'm here, I spend much less time on my phone, my interactions with people are much less based on any kind of technology. People, you know, in the village have an incredible sense of humor, so that's something very important for me. So, I just feel happy, I feel like a kid, I just forget myself and have a proper summer camp experience in my 30s.

what do you do, about your projects? Are there any related to Armenia and this house?

Well, I'm an Armenian who lives abroad, which kind of conditioned my practice, my artistic practice and things I do. I predominantly work with clothes and costumes on both fashion and art related projects. I write a bit on the side and clothes and words often go side by side in my work. The recent times this house has reappeared in sort of my professional experience was when I traveled to Armenia with a German photographer, Patrick Bienert for a very special project he was working on, which was a photography book on Armenia. And I had the chance and honor to be sort of a local guide and advisor on the country. And Patrick and I traveled all over the country visiting different villages. But of course, it was a very special moment when I got to bring him to Teghut and to this very house. And he met our neighbors. He explored, you know, my family history and heritage. And that was really special. And some of my family members, in fact, have made it into the final selection of the pictures for the photo book. So that was a very special moment.

What about the interior here? Why are there so many beds?

Well, as you can tell, the house is quite eclectic and very full of sort of aged furniture and decorative pieces. As I've said, it's been a while that we haven't really taken proper care of the place, because everyone sort of lives abroad in the family and spends limited time in Armenia. So, most of the furniture and any sort of decoration you see comes from like 30 years ago.  Very few things changed, and clearly this doesn't necessarily reflect the way I live and how my place in Paris looks like or any other place where I've ever lived. But in a weird way, I really enjoy coming here, and I must say, with time, I've grown really unwilling for things to change in this house. And I usually react quite badly. I'm very sensitive when I hear that family members want to change things or get rid of stuff. Because in a way, it just became this frozen piece of memory from a very happy time in my life. And I've grown very unwilling to change things about it, despite the fact that, as you can tell, many things could have changed. My aunt, who's the main kind of caretaker of the house, she's an incredibly hospitable person. And I think in my mother's family, there's nothing more exciting than receiving guests and hosting people and feeding them and having a bed for them and making sure they're well-fed, well-entertained. So, this is the reason why there are lots of beds, so that whoever wants to come has a place to sleep and can even bring a friend with them.

We love the combination of different colors and prints on textiles around the house. It reminds us of your work, because you use in your styling those techniques of combining different patterns, fabrics together. Is it inspired by this house and the culture?

This is a good point, actually. You know, as you can see from the house, possibly I don't come from neither an artistic nor a design background. Both of my parents' families were mostly working-class people. And, a lot of my inspiration has been coming from my childhood and my kid days. I've just been trying to extract and sort of get nostalgic about this beauty and about exactly the patterns, the textures that were maybe less sophisticated and unified than they are now, especially in the Western design world that I sort of float in. And I found that there's a lot of visual richness.

Do you have any plans related to this house? Are you going to keep it or what?

Well, as I said, it's become this kind of neutral territory among a lot of family members, and the house is getting old and requires a lot of care. So one way of keeping the tradition, of sharing it with other people and allowing other people to know the hospitality of the village and our family and the sort of the peace that the house holds within, I was thinking maybe to restore it and turn it into a sort of guest house, where people could just stop by and sort of support the economy of the house and in the meantime, preserve it and preserve the legacy of my grandparents.

Sounds like a good plan, because we already stayed there and we loved it a lot and we want to thank Zina for the best barbecue in our life and also Chris and Tigran for the company.

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