Traveloid by Through Kotor, Montenegro

Venture forth with me and see what I see
as we explore the imaginary

In Kotor, we go back through history till as some say it was seen through the eyes of Greeks as Dekatera (meaning “hot”). Just imagine the numerous stories and myth of Greek imagination orally transmitted through the mountainous Kotorska Boka (Bay of Kotor often simply known as ‘Boka’) and the local population slowly absorbing the ideas. For example, the heads of Hydras, as they emerge from the water, reaching up into the sky exploring the surrounding, trying to fight the Cyclops from the mountains. Cyclops, one of the earliest forms of giants, conventionally blind from the human perspective but possessing the all seeing eye that perceives across time and space. Eventually as the new civilizations came and replaced the imagination of the collective, the Cyclops went to sleep and merged with the mountains. Now we can still see the rocky textures protruding from the vegetation of the steep mountain sides, dotted here and there with the Church or mostly an abandon village and we can still imagine the giant sleeping underneath it all.

Snapping back to the moment of now, October 2017, I often wonder about the architectural and cultural metamorphoses that lead to this moment where we witness the dance between the old and the new and the wants. What people want usually reflects on the environment, architecture and culture, and today’s collective want of this area seems to be focused on Salva me (help me).

Help me in finding myself, my purpose and my role in society and the world? This is a cry that so many people on this planet share and yet among all of our solutions, life coaches, inventions and advancement only a small percentage finds the correct balance. The question is how was this balance distributed in the medieval Kotor and surrounding Boka Bay, as the fight for territory, control and power meant a chessboard filled with human lives. It was Justinian of the Byzantine Roman Empire who left the notable mark, built a wall over the mountain, so that these days multitudes from the cruise ships can walk the steps that at one time meant protection, survival and control. It was the Ostrogoths that he managed to defeat and secure Ascruvium (as Kotor was once named) under Roman influence. Nearby Risan (Rhizon) was a municipium at the time and already the imagination of myth and super powers infiltrated the architecture through the Roman mosaics dating back to II century AD. The most notable depiction was of the God Hypnos, who ruled dreams and sleep.


Kotor, Montenegro
Date Autumn 2017
Exploring history of Kotor, myth of Cyclops, Hydras, Odilon Redon, Roman God Hypnos, Homer’s Odyssey
Connecting art of Odilon Redon Cyclops piece, communist regime, morality of society, greed and natural balance, Dante and sphere of Mercury for Justinian

Charlie: Maybe Hypnos made Cyclops so dormant for so long and the only energy of discord was the invisible fumes that came out and created the rampant construction chase among the populations and those discovering the place from other countries in the recent years as it transitioned away from the Communist system.

Earling: How did you perceive all that? First we want to explore the vision of the artistic imaginary world versus material accumulation and how dark becomes light when there is no life and death. Let’s start with Cyclops!

Odeon Radon’s Cyclops is one such example where the artist pulls us into his world of chasing monsters and converting them into benevolent creatures. Polyphemus, a one- eyed Cyclops that consumes everything before him is looking in a non-threatening way over a Naiad Galatea. It is the innocence and tremendous power of nature that we admire and fear and interpret it through powerful creatures.

Charlie: Naiads represent the water spirits of springs, and Mountains around Kotor are abundant with springs, no wonder this vision can be translated across centuries in this present moment of associations and nature indeed is observing just like Polyphemus and Galatea and waits for the moment to attack and manifest the power like it did in Homer’s Odyssey.

Let’s traverse some more history that made the place what it is now.

Earling: The most famous and notable beside the old town itself is the fortification from Roman times (although the place was fortified during the Ilirian times the form we see today goes back to the Romans), called San Giovanni (St. John). The famous Roman emperor Justinian I sparked the impulse to built the fortification in the 6th century as he was trying to unite the Roman Empire that seemed to be on a continuous downward slope not only against rising powers but also because the nature seemed to be rebelling bringing forth volcanoes, meteor collision, earthquakes, plagues,….

Charlie: Dante Alighieri decided that Justinian’s place in the Divine Comedy was as a spirit residing on the sphere of Mercury, alongside those consumed by ambitions and thirst for achievement but not for the right motives. It seems that the all consuming fame dictated his action as opposed to what should have been a spiritual striving.

Earling: Kotor was a true crossroads of empires with the Venetian rule leaving the greatest mark, a mark of Stari Grad (Old Town) architecture. A Synonym for culture, civilization and system of values with which Marco Polo started exploring the world and taking it as a measure of everything he assembled. Today we have a world wide web, but our measure of reality depends on what we are surrounded with.

On the other hand Oldřich Koníček (1886-1932) in 1912 depicted what he saw in his painting Pohled na Boku Kotorskou (View over Kotor Bay) while Carlo Carra, one of the leading Futurist painters at the time may have easily influenced this painting. Early 20th century had it’s own version of world wide web and the connections made will only reveal the mystery as we plough through time in both directions.

Charlie: Do you think that the beauty of nature in it’s both ruthless and magnificent form influenced the events that happened as Ostrogoths, Saracens, the Bulgarian Empire, the Serbian Grand Principality, Kingdom of Hungary, Bosnia, Venetian republic, and Ottomans, came and went?

Earling: In a way it preserved itself, the fact that mountains with their sleeping Cyclops and Naiads prevented massive movement and conquests, it was sufficiently out of the way so that the wilderness could spring forth every so often.

Charlie: Wilderness that crucial element, in these tame years of technological conquering, isn’t it interesting that sometimes wild is associated with a positive concept? It is a sign that imagination is still present.

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