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.

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

For documentation of programme please go to the page PROJECTS