A sign we are, without meaning,
Without pain we are and have nearly
Lost our language in foreign lands,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Though the time
Be long, truth
Will come to pass.1
Analyzing these lines in Friedrich Hölderlin's anthem Mnemosyne, Christopher D. Johnson argues that memory "sets us an endless, impossible task in part because we are forever shuttling between the familiar and "the foreign." Language will always remain the most important memory tool for us "because it is fueled by metaphor whose task, as Aristotle and many others after him have observed, is to exploit our thirst for the "foreign," that we might see similarities in things initially perceived as being quite dissimilar."2
The goddess of memory, a Titaness Mnemosyne (gr. Μνημοσύνη), the daughter of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth), is the mother of the nine muses, among which are those responsible for inspiring history, art, and literature. Mnemosyne was an inherent part of the mystical Orpheus tradition, in which she was the equivalent of the goddess of oblivion - Lethe, also known as the river of oblivion, which washes the shores of the Greek underworld. In order to forget their former life, the newly dead had to drink from Lethe before resurrecting the new one. The memory represented by Mnemosyne serves as an act of raising eternal truths, so necessary to preserve stories and myths before the emergence of writing.
In the Roman Empire of Augustan times between 44 BC and AD 69, travel and tourism was a widespread phenomenon, an essential cultural feature of the society of the time. Augustan tourism could be explained by three key lexical concepts – peregrinatio, otium, hospitium, and the semantic fields they open. The first of these is important to me in this text. In Latin person who travels around is peregrinator. This noun "comes from the verb peregrinare, which has an ambiguous meaning: it means 'to go abroad, to travel." Travel, in Latin itself, is associated with the idea of "foreignness." The Oxford Latin Dictionary the notion of traveling explains as 'to go, to travel abroad or away from home; to travel in thought or in imagination; to reside, stay or sojourn abroad') and gives the adjective peregrinus the connotation of foreignness. In terms of persons, this adjective means stranger; foreign, alien; of other creatures: not native, exotic; belonging to foreigners, outlandish; of places: situated abroad; not Roman. Augustan travelers were aware "that they remained strangers wherever they were: this corresponds to the much-discussed view of the tourist as 'the Other' and tourism as 'The Quest for the Other'."3
Whether it is the time of Emperor Augustus or the current travel motivation remains the same – the desire to visit and see unfamiliar places, people, experience inexperienced practices, encounter what is not typical of your environment, traditions, no matter how interesting, full of history and attractions your neighborhood is. Cultural researcher Loykie Lomine compares Augustan's tourist to the modern traveler, "New Yorker who has ascended the Eiffel Tower twice but will never visit the Statue of Liberty." The sophisticated Augustan society could offer "everything that is commonly regarded as typically modern (not to say post-modern) in terms of tourism: museums, guide-books, seaside resorts with drunk and noisy holidaymakers at night, candle-lit dinner parties in fashionable restaurants, promiscuous hotels, unavoidable sightseeing places, spas, souvenir shops, postcards, over-talkative and boring guides, concert halls and much more besides."4
Such Roman-era traveler is so little different from the thirsty for pleasure and adventure modern tourist that the very concept of travel and its accompanying practices seems to be an unchanging and essential axis supporting human civilizations. Travel is always accompanied by the traveler's need to redefine himself repeatedly through "the Other" so he could get a broader experience than that defined by his relationship with the world. Only "the Other" enables him to transform himself, to himself become "the Other."
Like the Augustinian traveler of the Roman Empire – peregrinator, the artist is always "the Other": a foreigner, an alien – an eternal stranger in unfamiliar territories. A traveler of time, media, archives, experiences, pulling the truth out of memory, and filling the gaps with lies. The methodology of my artistic research is simple - I travel through archives and historical material as an inattentive tourist who wonders everything he encounters and looks around without knowing what awaits him turning a corner in an unfamiliar city. The viewer of my work also becomes a tourist wandering through the pages of my artwork. It gives him the coordinates, a travel guide written by me is given to him to avoid getting lost where he is now, where he was or will be. The gaze of my artistic research is the gaze of a tourist. The primary purpose of such a tourist is not to reconstruct the past or shape the future, although this sometimes happens unexpectedly, unknowingly, without planning for it. He is only trying to quell his "thirst for foreignness" by traveling through libraries, museums, archives, visiting monuments, participating in commemoration practices. Traveling from a homogeneous, institutionalized memory, he can suddenly change the direction of his journey and visit his past generations, relics, family myths, and hidden fantasies regardless of any logic and order. From such a close relationship with the other - others become his own, begin to define his own. The travel photo albums of such a tourist are filled with unknown family photos, unknown stories, adventures, and landscapes. When a turning point occurs when such a tourist begins to assimilate foreign myths, stories, and archives, when from being "unfamiliar" they become "his own"?