Le due Rome

2020, travertine tablets with ten original literature miniatures

developed for Villa Massimo si avvicina [Die Villa Massimo rückt näher], Rome

 

 

The work consists of ten literary miniatures by the artist,  inscribed on tablets made of travertine, a material that is typical for Rome, that were exhibited on the external walls of the Villa Massimo grounds along the Viale XXI Aprile. “Le due Rome” also alludes to the eponymous Le due Rome: Confronto tra Roma e Costantinopoli penned by the Byzantine scholar Manuel Chrysoloras, who taught widely in Venice and Florence at the end of the 14th century. He significantly contributed to opening up antiquity’s cultural heritage, which hitherto had been preserved in Byzantine libraries, making it available to scholars of the early Renaissance. By dint of Chrysoloras’ efforts, the memory of a kinship between Rome and Constantinople was rekindled, which offered the humanism of the early Renaissance a vital impulse, thus playing a critical role in the modernising thrust that was to impact the whole of Europe over the course of time. 

 

Nowadays, two perspectives on Rome predominate. The first considers the city as a life-sized walk-in Wunderkammer of European culture and world history, overflowing with untold layers of stories and history, of symbols, relics and myth and texts. It’s regarded as a wellspring where the mythical potential from Eternal Rome’s most diverse epochs recompose themselves over and again, as they have repeatedly done down through the millennia. 

 

The second perspective, closely intertwined with the first, views Rome as the nexus of global Catholicism. While accepted in the global North as part and parcel of its own history, it should be understood independently of it. In principle, this perspective is autonomous, given that for devout Catholics the world over, Rome, namely the Vatican, constitutes a prominent global reference point. 

 

And yet, the Eternal City also happens to be a hub amidst the matrix of urban agglomerations scattered across the Mediterranean coastal region. In this close-knit network, Rome is but one city among others that resemble each other in multiple aspects, inter alia, urban and social practices, as well as the conditions and mindsets that emerged therefrom. These social structures, organised in a more relational fashion, call for a specific understanding of time. Local traditions and symbols, customs, tales of yesterday and bygone days are valued and carry sway throughout those societies whose collective memories also measure the passage of time in generations. 

 

Le due Rome, today’s twin cities of Rome and Istanbul, form part of a highly cohesive cultural space, which, to date, has endured and whose essence consists of vibrant communication, close collaboration and trade links. By calling into question those national specificities used as elements in forging an identity, the identity-focused policies embraced by modern nation-states across the 19th and 20th centuries ultimately overshadowed the awareness of these common roots.