Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Curating Kazbegi - a journey along the Georgian Military Highway

As a writer who does a lot of site-specific work as well as a huge fan of travel writing, walking as art and an urban theory geek, the idea of curating a journey as a form of virtual museum - an ephemeral museum that can never wholly be reproduced - is fascinating to me. So my first offering to museeme is just that - a curation of the day I gatecrashed a tour guide trainee day trip by marshrutka (transit van/minibus) up the Georgian military to Kazbegi - village high up in the Caucasus, old gateway to Russia, home of a famous monastery on a hill, mythical last resting place of Prometheus. All photos my own, taken April 2008.

Hurtling out of Tbilisi on a sunny may day on deceptively reassuring roads after about an hour (I think - memory distorts such things) we came to Ananuri and its beautiful church. Ancient seat of the Eristavis of Aragvi we only lingered long enough to don a headscarf and pay our respects.

We passed by a battle of rivers black and white.

Hot springs painting the climbing earth.

Growing mountains.

 Krestovsky Pereval Belvedere - this is where mosaics compete for the view...

Curating a view with ideology? Who wins? We left...

 Waved hello to the mist ghosts...

 Church barns for horses...

Breathing rock up to snow...

Kazbegi. We arrived. The marschrutka broke. A young man with witch green eyes and a cigarette tongue laughed but wanted to help. You must climb, he smiled.

Past houses and pig friends.

It's getting closer!

 Snow descended like mist as we reached the top. 
Mount Kazbek lost in clouds and mythology, no voyeurism of chains and pecked livers of an ancient imagination. Just peace, and beauty, and cold white snow.

I will never forget how we got down again. Stumbled past confused monks, ankles bare through knee deep snow, and misguided canvas shoes soaked through, freezer wet, we ran, clung to branches, broke our fall with laughter and feet skiing and momentum of not caring what happened any more. Just to get down. To get warm. To drink coffee and cha cha fire up our throats, before hitching a ride on someone else's bus, back through the magic all clouded now. No view to chasms. No room for fear of crashes. Tbilisi, we are nearly home.

I was reading a short intro yesterday, by Tea Obreht to a photo essay of Clarisse d'Arcimoles. She talks of a revelation when a boy said to her "I don't need the picture, I have the memory." She started to question all her ideas of images and memory and photos - whether a photo can ever capture a memory, or is it rather too elusive? Is it simply futile to try and let others share in our memories or to understand there's by looking at photos, if the memory is something of its own, something personal and unknowable to anyone else no matter how much they try? Maybe this is very true - I agree that it is impossible to sum up a person or a moment, an experience, in a single frame. However in some ways the fact that we can never really know a memory as represented by its image makes it more interesting in terms of curating for me - you can set an image free - something that is so evocative for one person, an integral part of what shaped their life, can become something totally different for someone else - the start of a story or the trigger of an idea. The inspiration for new thought or feeling through an emotional response. This is just as valid and can make a selection of photos a museum no one can ever know in whole as it lives in all its viewers heads - the stories they have read into them. Not so much death of the author, as reincarnation of memories. Could this be said for all museums and exhibitions?

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