Researching the Roman gods, one stood out in particular within the modern context: Janus, the god of doorways, travel and transition. Equipped with multiple heads, the god looks both left and right, into the future and the past; therefore guarding both the living and the dead. The image of Janus’ horizontally sweeping head also awakens associations of the movement one makes when crossing a busy road; looking to the life rushing past in front of one’s eyes while simultaneously being confronted with one’s own mortality. Who looks for Janus in the modern Rome can find him pinned in the middle of Ponte Fabricio, a bridge over the Tiber close to Forum Romanum, the historical beginning of the Via Appia Antica.
On the 11.11, the unofficial celebration day of the four-headed Janus, the Roman god of travel and transition was celebrated, highlighting the contemporary meaning of this god to the Eternal City. Carried by a group of performers and individuals joining the performance, a light-weighting replica of the oldest statue of this god in Rome was carried from its original standing point on the Ponte Fabricio bridge to the busy four-way crossing opposite of the church Domine Quo Vadis. The contemporary pelgrims traveling with him underwent all hardships of walking this pelgrimage road in this day and age, challenged with staying on the road while also navigating through the busy and trafficked city centre of Rome. During the travel, the Roman god of travel and transition guarded the traveler, again fulfilling his role as a protecting spirit through the light matter in which he was replicated. In order to be able to see the traffic coming from all sides, he grew one additional head.
The procession resembled traditional spiritual rites in Italian culture which are nowadays mostly found in the countryside; therefore replacing the historical rite within the middle of contemporary metropolitan city life. While walking the road together with this symbol, both the material and the immaterial heritage of this place were being highlighted. The performance made a rare gesture of slowness, performativity and spirituality in the context of an otherwise fast-moving and over-trafficked capital; redeploying the first few historical miles of the road situated in the midst of the city.
Miriam Sentler worked together with curator Caterina Antonaci, who helped her in researching the various meanings of the road and in organizing the performance. Thanks to Parco Regionale dell’ Appia Antica, Krien Clevis, CLUE+, LIAG Architects, Henk Bijsterbosch and Montei Di Matteo.