Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?*

(Elizabeth Bishop “Questions of Travel”, 1965)

At a time when we find our horizons shadowed by rigid borders and distinctly drawn out geographies, it becomes fascinating to travel through imagined maps – remote landscapes, silky textures, salty odours and bright colours – assembled together as a mesmerising environment. While physical bridges are replaced with imaginary constructions, we are forcefully, yet somehow harmoniously, rooted in our own localities, our own familiar streets surrounding our homes, fixed to our bedrooms more than ever before. As such, a reference to Jonathan Friedman’s** description of the idea of roots, becomes pertinent. According to Friedman, roots are not fixed, they are ever-changing and formed within the context of globalisation, network economy and mobility, thus evolving into routes.

The project “Roots to Routes” challenges the relation to a particular territory and space and addresses the concept of the stranger*** (taken from Georg Simmel’s “The Stranger” (1908)): someone who arrives to a community and who, in a complex interplay of simultaneous nearness and distance, imports qualities into it which do not and cannot stem from the group itself. “Roots to Routes” aims to invite the strangers to engage, to encounter the unknown and unfamiliar, and to find perceptive ways of communicating with one another.

Conceived just before and during the times of the pandemic, “Roots to Routes” interacts with the notion of belonging and displacement causing psychological traumas. Geographical proximity and physical relations that are lost or limited during the pandemic strangely activate our imagination and positively remind us of interconnectedness that exists between people, places, spaces and ideas. By losing mobility, do we become more distant from one another, or rather, more connected via non-physical space(s)? What kind of relationships are enlivened in this situation? What kind of new experiences and personal ties can we continue to forge?

“Roots to Routes” is a collaboration between artists, curators and non-profit organisations from the Baltic countries, curated by Merilin Talumaa, Maija Rudovska and Justė Kostikovaitė. “Roots to Routes” invites strangers to encounter the unknown and unfamiliar, while exploring and challenging concepts of ‘homebase’, ‘belonging’ and ‘identity’.
The first chapter of “Roots to Routes” took place in Marseille as part of the Manifesta 13 Biennial programme entitled “Les Parallèles du Sud” from 28 August to 25 October 2020. The collaboration is foreseen to continue throughout the coming years.


*Bishop, Elizabeth. “Questions of Travel”, 1965.
**Friedman, Jonathan. “From roots to routes: Tropes for trippers”, 2002.
***Simmel, Georg. “The Stranger”, 1908.

Juste Kostikovaite is an independant curator and currently works as a Lithuanian Cultural Attaché in the UK. She works closely with UK arts institutions, including the BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art, Collective Gallery, CCA Derry~Londonderry and Somerset House Artists Studios and other institutions. She is interested in the topics of authenticity, contemporary art collecting and cultural appropriation.

Maija Rudovska‘s practice is shaped by independent curation, research, art criticism and writing. Her curatorial focus is on topics such as in-betweenness, hybridity, identity and space with a recent interest in advocating for self-organized, independent practices. Rudovska holds an MA degree in art history from The Art Academy of Latvia (2009) and has completed postgraduate studies in curating from Curatorlab at Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm (2009/2010). She has worked extensively in the Baltic-Nordic region, as well as internationally curating exhibitions and projects at Futura Gallery (CZE), Foundation Ricard (FR), Bozar Centre for Fine Arts (BE), Kim? Contemporary Art Centre (LV), Moderna Museet (SE), Contemporary Art Centre (LT), The Living Art Museum (IS), Augusta Gallery (FI), ARS Project Space (EE), etc. Since 2011 she has been running the network platform Blind Carbon Copy that focuses on network building models, alternative education and work strategies between curators, artists and other practitioners.

Merilin Talumaa is an independent curator, writer and producer from Tallinn, Estonia. She has graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts department of Art History and Visual Culture, where she is currently guest lecturer. Her practice has evolved around everyday rituals in contemporary art and studio practices of young generation of artists from the Baltic countries. She is currently working on a book “Your Time Is My Time” which is analysing aspects connected to nomadic life, such as precariousness, migration, presence, a sense of belonging and place among artists from the Baltic countries. A book “Artists’ Spaces. 16 studio visits”, was compiled and edited by Merilin Talumaa (together with Annika Toots) and published by the Estonian Academy of Arts Press in 2017.