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Miriam Sentler

Janus-faced / A Lament for Lost Rites (2018-2020)

Via Appia Park

Performance Janus Walk

Janus-faced / A Lament for Lost Rites (2018-2020)

The project ‘Janus-faced - A Lament for Lost Rites’ focuses on the contrast between life and death on the Via Appia Antica, one of the oldest pilgrimage roads in the world. Within the work, the contemporary activities and performativity happening on the road are being researched in relation to the historical burial rituals which emerge from the road’s spiritual use. The title of the project refers to two-headed Janus, the Roman god of travel and transition, who simultaneously guards the world of the living and the afterlife, constantly shifting his view from one world to the next. Following architect Christian Norberg-Schulz’s findings, the Via Appia is heavily influenced by the over- and the underworld; the realm of the Gods and the land of the Dead.

By conducting fieldwork on the road itself, the different social groups (tourists, scientists, pilgrims) and their rituals have been mapped in relation to the manner in which they contribute to the current characteristics of the road. This led to the conclusion that, although there is a strong focus on the material relics originating from the spiritual rituals, the essential performativity which is characteristic for the pilgrimage road is broadly dismissed, resulting in tricky situations for the contemporary individuals walking the road. This finding has been confirmed by inhabitants living in the area, who described the Via Appia Antica as an over-trafficked road that they rather avoid.

The project transforms a part of the road into a memory-theatre, turning the road into a decor and the passengers into actors, all under the attentive view of multi-headed Janus. The most lively place on the Via Appia is the busy crossroad next to the Church Domine quo Vadis where four two-directions roads meet, of which one is the Via Appia Antica, which is walked by tourists and spiritual groups. This place stands in sheer contrast with the further part of the road, which people mostly visit to silently reflect on the grave tombs and Roman relics. By virtually mapping the daily movements happening on this part of the road, reversing ancient-old walks and re-introducing an ancient protection god to this busy crossroad, a view of the contemporary activity and performativity on the road is being presented, in relation to ancient spiritual relics and customs resulting from the road’s history; therefore combining different time periods.

Performance Janus Walk: 11.11.2019, 11.00h

11th of November, 11:00: Performance Miriam Sentler - 'Janus Walk'
Collective walk from Ponte Fabricio to Domine Quo Vadis, along the first miles of the Via Appia Antica.

In the performance, a 3D-printed replica of one of the oldest Janus sculptures in Rome is being transported from his original standing point on the Ponte Fabricius bridge, close to Circus Maximus, the historical beginning of the Via Appia, to the busy four-way crossing in front of the famous church Domine Quo Vadis. Here, the god of travel and transition guards the contemporary pilgrim trying to cross the road, fulfilling his role as a protecting spirit. In order to be able to see the traffic coming from all sides, he grew one additional head (four heads total) which point in the directions of the different roads. Carrying Janus from the original starting point of the Via Appia to the busy crosspoint in front of Domine Quo Vadis is also reversing the famous spiritual walk after which the church was named. The sculpture is made of a light material, emphasizing the role of Janus as the god of travel and transition. In the performance, the sculpture is being carried by a group of performers and the people joining the performance, resembling traditional spiritual rituals in Italian culture.

Miriam Sentler works together with curator Caterina Antonaci.
Miriam Sentler (1994, DE/NL) is an interdisciplinary artist, working mainly with installation, video and artist publications. By using several mediums, she builds narrative installations which aim to connect personal experiences with collective memory. Within her practice, she is fascinated by the traveling of natural and industrial objects and the constant changing and shifting of landscapes and contexts, caused by the colonial gaze, migration, and symbolism.

More information on: miriamsentler.com