Contemplations on Travel

Chloe Charlton, Sculpture and Environmental Art

And I will watch the shifting landscapes of passing lands and passing peoples; a perspective of the observer until a slow realisation of understanding arises in which the relative motion is caught. It relates to a similar notion of the sudden dimensionality of depth that comes in, like the tide and like that of the time mankind understood that it was in fact the Earth which moved around the Sun.

And I will watch the sunset from up here, no longer amongst the view of the gods with its constantly shifting viewpoint of earth. I will be in time rather than the passive observer of it.

And here, the world comes in quite fast!

It feels important to experience this shifting physically, as an access to understanding the continuity of reality. I now think of the clouds above the earth, each giving a little window of focus, breaking up the whole image, not allowing it to be seen all at once.

And I am reminded of the fluidity of borders, of how young some of them are – trying to imagine the land before.

How did people define themselves outside the nationalist structure?

To what identity did they associate?

Perhaps this is a new concept, one which we grasp onto so tightly, and one which feels so necessary to produce as an exclaimed, external statement. As something we rejoice within, and exclaim loudly to others. As something one ultimately always carries with them. And these borders are often loosely set upon a certain commonality that is spread throughout and carried – they often aren’t born out of nothing despite the extent of their artificiality. And so, the shifting, abstract realities of borders becomes apparent; their importance seen by the concrete realities they bring on states and on peoples. And soon I will be overcome with the image of the passing landscape of my motherland; I wonder how it will appear to me now after all this time.

I think of my own identity, and how little I feel connected to it, and how being away alters my relationship to it. I met you and think of the necessity you feel to identify yourself with your mothers and fathers homeland, despite never living there. Because your own is not enough to hold your full complexity. An attempt to maintain your single identity alongside and submerged within the greater collective whole that is at risk of being lost. A curvature is born around you, and you are able to see yourself from outside your single body, from the peripheries. Yet only those with attuned ears will realise what you exclaim.

Now, I move through the world quickly, unable to truly recognise but am cast into the midst of it all, in a precise and constrained way. I remain an outsider to this reality, a guest as such, being only a pair of eyes to bear witness to what is passing before them. The darkness abstains its attempts and transforms the world into passing dots of light.

Must we remain longer in reality, allowing it to sink and settle in, for the abstraction of a place to turn itself into a concrete form? We dream and place our dreams onto things (and now I think of my own desperation) and these start to come to the surface. Oh, how abstract places can seem to the mind when all that’s given is the stories of others. We cast ourselves into this wonderful build of a place, one that holds quite extremes. And until we are truly there, we will not know which aspects of our constructed image can be called truth and which must fade away. We begin to understand things that only arise with the body, the waiting of time and the stillness that comes with it all.

What an injustice to perform to such places of the world and to such people! How is it that we feel we can go around believing, proudly, that we know such distant lands. The remanence (but is it really over yet?) of colonialism is felt strongly. And when I speak of distant lands, I don’t just speak of ones that are physically far but also that of our neighbours. For a distance can be generated in more ways than physically. I speak of the distance that is cast between us when we go take truth from our own assumptions that’re born and lived on from the stories of others.

And yet these lands remain foreign, despite our experiencing of them, in our memories, these lands remain foreign.

Before the current chaos that is sweeping the world over, I took a train from Istanbul back to the UK. I was returning from my time on exchange in Israel. I had hoped to avoid flying, however the political climate of Israel meant it was very difficult to exit the country in any other way – and so I took a short flight to Istanbul to begin my travels by land.

“I was saddened by the amazement I received when I told people that I was travelling by train, and by the assumption people gave about the way in which I was travelling. These interactions, and my own experience of being in Israel for 5 months, called me to question the notion of travel; how long do you have to stay for your travel to become a form of living?; how much time do you give a place, or rather does a place deserve, to be understood and to say you have ‘been there’?; what are borders that separate this one piece of land?; where did the presumptions I had of certain places and people come from?; what does it mean to be an observer to these places we visit – for both the subject and object?

I was very aware of how quickly I was passing through and found some comfort in telling myself that the main objective of this time was to experience how it is to travel long distances by train.

This was a series of contemplations from that time.”

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