A straight line is not always the shortest distance -or
the safest one- between two points. At least not in space
voyages, love affairs or art exhibitions.
A spaceship has to follow mathematically curved paths to
reach its point of destination and, if an aeroplane were
to rise or follow a perfectly straight flight path, it would
disintegrate in the upper layers of the atmosphere.
Seduction requires sinuous, intermittent strategies, plays
on irony, assertive approaches, territorial marks and even
the occasional heart-shaped line drawing.
Exhibitions tend to leak along the vertex lines suposed
to frame them; they refuse to fit the plan drawn up for
them and their contents slip out through tangential spaces
that reveal panoramas which may astound or disappoint, depending
on the viewer that sees them.
What journeys, love stories and exhibitions have in common
is that they are inclined to become the stuff of a fable.
They have a beginning -sometimes imaginary- then unfold
-sometimes abruptly- and come to an end, at times a happy
one. They likewise share the fact that they are part of
existential transits which hardly ever occur in a pure form
but tend to merge and even become confused, so that an exhibition
might turn into a tale of love or a voyage become an aesthetic
Of all such phenomena, experiences associated with journeys
afford the broadest metaphorical transpositions. What air
traveller has not, on some occasion, shuddered when reading
the airport sign "Passangers in transit", associating
it with the fleeting nature of human existence? And who
could have failed to notice how we arrive at and depart
from places called "terminals"?
When talking of journeys we may, of course, mean utilitarian,
geographical travel, but we may also be referring to the
transit between reason and madness, or consciousness moving
across realms of knowledge, or the intense venture into
desire. There are real journeys and imaginary ones. There
are chemical journeys and virtual ones. There are journeys
of war and of love.
From carefully planning routes, or the decision to shake
off chance encounters, to confrontation with the disturbing
forces of unexpected turbulence or the exciting satisfaction
of discovering new territories an ethics or aesthetics of
journeying can be discerned -just as powerful allegories
of iniatation, exploration or the return to one's beginnings
are readily applicable to the symbolic field of experience.
Curators are likewise indefatigable travellers who must
do the rounds of studios, visit galleries and move around
cities. Their mission is that of an explorer who must not
only describe the landscapes he or she has seen but, through
the exhibition medium, sketch out the subtle lines that
bear witness to the fleeting depictions of new terrain,
for their purpose is not merely to shed light on what others
produce but create it themselves, to break it into the multiple
facets that enable it to be temporarily coded and thereafter
to migrate towards further truths, towards other readings
and other landscapes.
While the curator scans and charts creative routes of artists,
the artist epitomises the archetypal traveller who traverses
the tracts of that "theology of the unthinkable"
which Julia Kristeva aludes to as being the unavoidable
road to engendering new ways of seeing reality.
The artist always attempts to discover new places where
reality has not wholly been determined and there is thus
room for creating new configurations and scenting atoms
of possibility and freedom.
Creation involves a journey into dark depths from which
one sometimes emerges with eyes bloodshot from the impact
of what one has seen.
In the field of love, the journey takes place between people
who momentarily desire to become mutually habitable. To
love is to emerge from oneself and to move towards the other,
and such a journey, while entailing trespassing on the other's
space, affords the only chance of forfeiting one's identity
to generate a common space, the only way to indulge in passion,
pleasure and the disillusion that leads us to want to "live
in another body" and pursue what are but other phantasm
that will enable us to formulate discourses and the experiences
of transformation and redefinition of our own identity.
The ardent, irrational nature of desire and the drive for
instant gratification must be reconciled with a willingness
to accept what is possible and to understand that certain
means and areas of transition are required to attain it.
Here, the figure of the pilot is relevant, as it conjoins
the method required to master technique with spontaneity
and the capacity to react to the unforeseen, because a pilot
knows that each day he must confront death and that a momentary
decision will pose a conclusive challenge to fate and lead
life to take a new turn.
Divers, too, may become involved in a descent to unfathomable
depths, in a journey that entails returning with the renewed
stregth of one who has survived a terrifying vision, an
unbearable experience tantamount to "life embracing
what threatens it" (Deleuze-Guattaril).
The inexorable end of the journey, of love and exhibition
is melancholy. Melancholy, because something was ... and
is no longer. Melancholy for what might have been but never
was, and melancholy because the loss was inevitable, for
the phantasm we had been dreaming about for so long finally
dwelt in a body different from the one we had constructed
in our imagination.
And yet, with Schelling one must renew one's optimistic
reading of nature's inexhaustible capacity for renewal and
the human capacity for creation. One must be aware that
love is ever germinating in the depths of deception, tedium
One must trust that other journeys and other exhibitions
shall similarly turn into stories of love in which we shall
continue to thrash about between the hallucinatory satisfaction
of desire and the constructions of reality.
© Rosa Martínez