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Miriam Sentler

Janus Walk: a Lament for Lost Rites (2019)

Via Appia Park

Performance Janus Walk

Janus Walk: A Lament for Lost Rites (2019)

Janus Walk - A Lament for Lost Rites emphasizes the immaterial and performative rituals of the Via Appia Antica, and the manner in which these have been threatened by the over-trafficking of the ancient pelgrimage route. The Via Appia Antica is known as a tranquil and monumental heritage site, paved with old stones and surrounded by green trees and ancient catacombs. However, this is just one side of this road. When asking inhabitants of Rome, many identify the road as a part of their daily commute in the busy traffic; an image standing in sheer contrast with the trades where the Via Appia Antica is famous for. While visiting the church Domine Quo Vadis (Jesus, where are you going?) one is confronted with the spiritual performativity which once characterized this place. Whoever walks here walks in the footsteps of Jesus and many other apostels, kings, artists and writers, individuals who used the road as a place for silent reflection and contemplation.

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.

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