Artist Statement

Binding chests, Mending hearts is 2 min experimental short film that explores the entanglements between the sensory experience of wearing a chest binder, the materiality of this object, and the intimate and emotional experiences that intersect with it. The voice-over was first written as a longer creative and multi-sensory audio description of the binder, subsequently shorten to function as voice-over. The images were obtained by experimenting with imprints of various stretchy fabrics on celluloid film and through rotoscope animation.     - Raphaëlle Bessette-Viens

Video Image Description 

An experimental video made from recycled celluloid film moves quickly but staggers slightly, inching forward frame by frame. The vibrating images display abstract shapes that appear in muted tones of orange, brows, yellow, taupe and green. Animations of hands traced in white appear at different scales. A right hand forms a fist - ASL for hold - followed by pairs of hands that interlock and come apart. 

Binding chests, Mending hearts


An undergarment
to control and hold, hold tightly
hold that body.

Restrictive and uneasy,
a paradoxical gesture 
shaping, modelling, kneading
circling back to the material conditions
of the feminine
tight, tense, cramped, constricted,
contracted, narrow. 

Pick it up and stretch it out
now hold it up to your face.
It is nimble in your hands
and soft on your cheeks.
Its surface is sleek, silky synthetic
fabric derived from petrochemicals.

Face buried in its pleats,
you breathe in deeply.
Clean laundry and the lingering
of perfume from a few weeks ago.
When they stopped holding me,
when I wanted to feel held
and it held me.

I remember how before
sweat had gathered between our surfaces
in tiny pools in crooks and folds
but now try to forget.

The ghost of a hand
pressed in the middle of my back
Kept in the layers of fabric and flesh 
is all that remains.

And like the plastic fabric
that breaks down
into thousands of microparticles
washed out, flushed back up, 
in my shower
Our enmeshments are countless.

While its hold shortens my breath
I'm reminded of its presence.
Attuned to my body
as matter, volume and fleshiness
and I think of the possibility
that I will to be able to hold them
in the ways they need to be held.
This exhibition is generously supported by the Canada Research Chair in Critical Disability Studies and Media Technologies,
and in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.