In the following text I will try to articulate the research made so far for my upcoming work Dromomania Adriatica.
The research is based on visual and textual materials. This work in development thrives on confusion, leaps in logic and simple media experiments. I also encourage you to wander off this site. You can do that by clicking on these shapes:
PART 1 - the loss of perspective
“You are currently running an experimental version of Earth.”
- Google Earth homepage, 2020.
As I step out into the world, and begin walking down a chosen path, I am fascinated by the openness of the sky. It’s blue colour, caused by the scattering of sunlight off the air molecules in the atmosphere, paints a gradient going from darker blue at the nadir and becoming almost white at the horizon. Deeper in the blue, and further above, are flying objects - some are bathed in light, some are hidden in the shadow of the planet, they are machines made into heavenly bodies following strictly laid out trajectories and sending electromagnetic waves through the air. Signals chasing rays of light, directionless but connected to the ground.
These machines realise their godlike gaze as an Icarian accident. Each sattelite is an useful informational beacon that can easily become space debris. Satellites emerged from a history of aviation and flight - birdwatching, hot air balloons, dirigibles, aeroplanes, helicopters and spacecraft.
While walking under the open sky I often get confused, lose perspective. The view from above is so easily attainable, and the planet seen from space seems lonely. It is a gaze that was until recently not meant for the human eye (even Buzz Aldrin fought clinical depression and alcoholism after leaving NASA). This new kind of perspective represents a disappearance of the point of view (POW) of a person standing with both feet on the ground. The vanishing point of the linear perspective is nowhere to be found. Well, it vanished. And what about the line of the horizon? It became a rectangle in 16:9 aspect ratio. It seems to me that the linear perspective in landscape representation is reserved only for fast smartphone photography, and for exotification and colonization of Mars. At the same time, visual hyper-representation of the land only signifies our detachment from it. It seems there are more digital photos of places than places themselves. As these photos traverse distances at incredible speed, it becomes easier to think about space in terms of speed than depth. These photos also want something from us - attention, affect, currency.
There is no difference between the left and right half of this image.
(just remember that the sky is not always blue)
PART 2 - fugue
Fugue (from the Oxford dictionary)
Late 16th century from French, or from Italian fuga, from Latin fuga ‘flight’, related to fugere ‘flee’
A contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts.
A loss of awareness of one's identity, often coupled with flight from one's usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy.
The invention of the airship brought forward the view from above, but also the air accident. The second half of the 19th century has introduced the world to aerial photography, mass tourism and new psychiatric disorders (among many other things). Nadar took the first aerial photographs in 1858, Karl Baedeker started publishing the famous Baedeker guides in the 1850s and a poor french gas fitter named Jean-Albert Dadas (born 1860) impulsively walked all over Europe thus becoming the worlds first person to be diagnosed with dromomania (an obsolete psychiatric disorder with symptoms closest to today’s dissociative fugue). I imagine flight, tourism and fugue to be connected by an impulse to travel and a need for speed. Somehow this craving for speed anticipated the madness of information circulation (now happening at the speed of light) in the 20th and 21st century.
An aerial photograph can equally function as a postcard or a war plan. Mass tourism can ignore the specificity of a place by focusing the travellers attention on churches, town squares, food and shopping. Both the aerial photo and tourism offer a way of representing the world that homogenises the way we see it which in turn facilitates alienation. Somnambulism and dromomania offer a way of making obvious the absurdity of impulsive travel and futility of temporary escapism offered by tourist agencies and digital hypermap street views. In this sense, the somnambulist and the dromomaniac emerge from symptoms of a travel obsessed society. Their alienated marathons negate mass tourism. They do not dream of faraway places, but through movement for movements sake practice the forgetting of places in the act of passing through them.
‘’Movement is a figure of love, incapable of stopping at a particular being, and rapidly passing from one to another.
But the forgetting that determines it in this way is only a subterfuge of memory.’’
-Georges Bataille: The Solar Anus (1927)
PART 3 - disorientation
‘‘Both walk and essay are meant to be pleasant, even charming, and so no one ever gets lost and lives on grubs of rainwater in a trackless forest, has sex with a stranger in a graveyard, stumbles into battle, or sees visions of another world.’’
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust - A History of Walking (2001)
We believe there’s a certain romanticism to be found on the lonely forest trails. I often venture into the woods alone, but soon enough realise that I’m never alone. As I navigate the various directions and paths, my movements are traced, my body - now a dot in the field - is being watched by the eye of the global positioning system. My position is constantly reinterpreted by triangulation of signals between three different satellites and my footprints traced inside the phone, and presented as an involuntary gift to multinational companies feeding off the information provided by their users. In this sense, any trace of romanticism has left the ground, and became unreachable. Every action is stored somewhere in the clouds, and the night flight to your lovers heart is manifested as a weird Uber route or an .gpx file. All the sunsets awaiting us are stored on servers situated beneath tons of rock, traveling from one screen to another via oceanic cables or the sky.
Back down below, nature continues its strange dance. There, everything mingles with everything else - non living compete with the living, or they collaborate. Species try to rule out or caress each other. Like the various kinds of lichen covering the rocks, or fungi growing on dead trees. All of these relations happen simultaneously and everything streams lively in constant transformation. As I walk between the sunlight and the rocks, and avoid stepping into piles of bear shit, I must remind myself not to fear falling prey to some strange beasts. The landscape is a map for letting go. And in turning the gaze from the sky to the ground I cannot help but wonder if the footprints in the mud can speak about events of the geological past, and how some footprints remain forever, petrified and hidden beneath layers of dirt. Can these footprints be seen from the skies above? We who made them have never actually seen the Earth from above - we were never apart from the soil but were always a part of the soil and everything around us. If we could get up there, we’d know how the stars look like, and being made from starstuff how could we not know?
There are certain kinds of enchantment and an even stronger disenchantment happening as I walk through the fog, as I get tired and can think only about food, and all the salt obtained from the meals I ate that now moves through my body, and drips from the pores on my skin onto the ground, where it might feed a flower, hit a rock or more likely just evaporate. Having food in mind and with the passing of kilometres it gets harder to differentiate between pain and the pulsating warmth inside the muscles. The monotony of the movement serves as a counterpoint to my short attention span, and endorphin and serotonin make long durations of walking pleasurable.
All my dreams of flying and walking, and of a possibility to understand the planet reach their end as soon as I’m faced with the physical reality of everything around me. While I cross the land I undertake each step as an attempt at pushing the whole planet downward with my feet that results only in my body being propelled upward, but not too far from the ground. In this repetition I loose my perspective, and trying to navigate in a medium as thin as air proves to be harder than expected, so I can orient myself only towards the horizon. I wonder if by reaching the horizon I will also reach the end of the world. And can we all stand on this edge, and which is this world that could be ending as we cross the threshold of the horizon, and what awkward steps lie ahead?
Tin Dožić is multimedia artis and WHW Akademija 2019/20 alumnus.
** Lutalaštvo / Wanderlust (the first step in the researh for Dromomania Adriatica) is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Media of Republic of Croatia, Metamedia association and Format C artist association.