Clear the Path!
17.06 – 15.07.2022
Clear the Path! (2014-2020) is a photo-archaeological investigation on the Curonian Spit (Lithuania) with a focus on one of its cities, Nida. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, this area of mobile dunes suffered a deforestation process never seen before in its history, allowing the sand to move. The dunes, without roots to hold them in place, began to advance, engulfing, in less than a century, all the small towns spread across the isthmus; sometimes in less than a time generation.
The impossibility of an archaeology of the place – lack of certainties, almost total disappearance of documentation and/or artifacts in the language of the isthmus, also lost; the triple nomenclature in German, Polish and Russian of each place – help to continue the path of creation through the idea of a speculative archaeology. The few documents found reaffirmed this direction, such as that 'Sagenhafte Dorfstelle' written on a German map from 1914 which literally means 'where we have been told there was a city'. That was, perhaps, the key to delve into the field of speculation.
The artist then decides not to look for the city, but to translate it. And she begins to create using scientific means to find exo-scientific results. Compasses, sample collection, measurements. Armed with a single analogue compass –with all the errors that it could lead to– she undertakes a translation of, precisely, the paths (of sand, too) from the current city of Nida to a point, 3.5 km to the south where, say the oral accounts, the ancient city of Nida was located. Virginia de Diego documents that city. Those roads. Those grains of just sand.
In this exhibition at INSTITUTO some of the oldest pieces of the project are shown, such as the Clear the Path! series and the Untitled series, both from 2014. In the first, the arena; in the second, the territory. Two agents, part of the same ecosystem. Enemies, or not so much? One, destroyer. The other, creator. But who is which, which is who? The sand that falls, time passes. A basic literal figure. It runs out in front of our eyes. And as it falls, it destroys the photographic surface. But it also makes the landscape appear. Destroying and creating.
All of the works relate to a very precise territory of the investigation: the No Man's Land between Lithuania and Russia, a non-existent extent. Which could be more speculative than this very concept? Speculation upon speculation, layer upon layer, they bury themselves and create history; others are dug up and destroyed. The pieces disappeared in my hands at the simple touch, turning into dust between my fingers...
 Pharus-Wanderkarte für Ausflü- ge von Cranz nach der Samlan- dküste und nach den Kurischen Nehrung Maßstab 1 : 100 000 Karte der Kurischen Nehrung mit Einschluß des von Ostpreußen abgetrennten Teiles, Alleinvertrieb für Ostpreussen: Hartungsche Verlagsdruckerei, Königsberg i. Pr.
 Caption in Museo Egizio, Torino, Italy.
Text: Virgina de Diego
Photography: Virgina de Diego
Support: DG Artes/Ministry of Culture and Criatório,
Ágora – Cultura e Desporto, E.M.