For many years rivers have been images of our planet. In his narrative
“the way it is on earth below heaven” Socrates talks about everything
surrounding the Okeanos and the Acheron, which are responsible for the
cycle of life. Such streams are often contra-dictory like the one of the
burning mud- and ash river Pyriphlegethon, which meets its dark blue
counterpart Kokytos. (Platon, Phaedo 108 ff)
Even today a real river can become
an image – and its contrasting image, too. One of such rivers is the
Daugava that flows through Latvia. On the one hand the river is an image
of natural beauty and on the other hand its banks reveal to us an ugly
stream of European war history.
memorials begin at Daugavpils with a fort from the time of Tsars. The
buildings of a barrack town are enclosed by barbettes whose occupants were
constantly changing – from the Soviet KGB to the German SS. The river in
its entirety is reminiscent of German Templar tracks that reveal the
absurdity of conquest and subjugation in the name of Jesus Christ. Shortly
before Riga comes a visible symbol of our most horrific absurdity: the
concentration camp of Salaspils.
Daugava passes by without taking any notice. It doesn’t understand why we
“one is born of water and the
spirit”. (John. 3) Water is the origin of all earthly life and has nothing
to do with wars fought for “fatherlands”. It mirrors no more than the
yearning for a mother – like the paintings of the Madonnas, which the
Renaissance painters once used to create a new artistic movement.
years I have been working on the Madonnas of Grünewald, da Vinci, Dürer
and Potormo. These paintings were shown in our regional artistic events –
until Roswitha suggested to let them go on their final journey further
afield. “Hand them over to the Daugava” she said “this could be an image
of humanity that the river might understand more”.