Published in the catalogue of MANIFESTA 1, Rotterdam, 1996. pp. 96-113

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 experience.

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 and ennui.

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