“Reroute—Reorient” at Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna

When lost, perplexed, or shocked, we feel the need to reorient ourselves. That is the term we use to define the adjustment to a new situation that might have come about after a sudden, unforeseeable or unfathomable change. To reorient, to orient again, refers, of course, to a spatial notion. By re-establishing a cardinal reference (east, north…) as a spatial metaphor, we determine a position relative to our surroundings, but also, to an uncertain present.

This spatial metaphor of adjusting to a compass differs from the way in which contemporary positioning navigation systems deal with being astray. Rerouting, the term popularised by GPS based systems as the corrective action unequivocally determined by data collection, is different from reorienting. It suggests a calculus of all the possible ways, tracks, and paths after a wrong turn, as if they were all simultaneously available and it were only a matter of computational power to identify the right one. Not so much a directional notion that can always be summoned as an aim—as orientation seemed to suggest—but an indiscriminate scanning of all possible bifurcations, of separating lines out of an indistinct mesh.

If we stretched the analogy of this pair to the subsequent global events that have characterised our present as one of incertitude and bewilderment, we would have to admit that the optimistic, technified mode of positioning ourselves suggested in rerouting entails a naturalised ideological worldview, made of pragmatic choices. Or, conversely, that we have lost trust in any valid anchor point towards which to rearrange our efforts, as an imagined trajectory drawn by a line.

Lines as trajectories or vectors, but also as connectors and as borders feature as a recurrent element in the works that thread this exhibition. These are the three main uses for lines in diagrammatic representations: projecting, connecting, and separating. In all cases, they imply the relation between two entities: a given position, and an aim, in a trajectory, two related elements in a connector, or two planes after a cut—the line is the representation of mediation but is never on either side of the dichotomy. A timeline, two connected units or two divided areas imply a diametrical connection between two things and, therefore, a specular relation and a threshold.

Janus, the Roman god of doors and thresholds, is always represented as a double face, looking simultaneously in two opposite directions. Backwards and forwards, inwards and outwards, into the future and into the past. Its constitution is the exact inversion of a mirror. Whereas the reflection of one’s face in a surface creates an inward illusion of introspection, the faces turned outwards in the representations of Janus create an axis at the point in which each gaze cannot encounter the other. The threshold is always elusive. Irrepresentable. Maybe this is why Janus also presided the dealings between war and peace.

at Galerie Martin Janda, Vienna
until October 8, 2022

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