The E40 European Highway was the first of a series of trans-continental routes conceived by the United Nations after the Second World War under a plan to assist Europe’s regeneration and develop international communication and transport links. Approximately 8,000 kilometres long, and the longest such route, the E40 stretches from Calais, France to Ridder, in northeast Kazakhstan near the Russian and Chinese borders.
During the summer of 2013 the artists decided to follow the whole E40 from Calais to Ridder by motorcar. They journeyed for 54 days, through France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Sometimes camping in the desert, or sleeping in the car they actually covered approximately 17,000 kilometres altogether, there and back.
As a cross-continental, east and west long-distance trade route, and communal corridor, the E40 is a ‘place’ and a concept of exceptional importance and interest. It traverses and unites ten nations and provides access to China in the east and the British Isles in the west. It facilitates trade and the transmission of goods and services between and across all Europe and Central Asia.
As a conduit for peoples, ideas and inventions and a space for the intermingling of many cultures, the E40 provides infinite possibilities for the strengthening of international understanding, cross-border cooperation, harmonization and friendly relations among peoples. In addition, the E40 is of outstanding historical interest for many peoples and cultures; parts follow track ways used since prehistoric times and sections of the legendary ‘silk routes’.
Day and night, the artists visually ‘captured’ elements of this iconic route. They photographed and videoed the road and people on the move between their many starting points and destinations. They captured incidents, activities, ambient sounds, conversations and conducted interviews at service stations.
Marcel Proust suggested that the experience of travelling along a road ‘at speed’ through space and time can disorientate and unsettle the human psyche and thus induce a liminal, in-between state of mind. The experience of impermanence and transition induces a feeling of ambiguity, which unsettles perceptions such that new perceptions and senses of identity can arise. The artists experienced the mysterious, ambiguous beauty of the E40 together with people from many nations and cultures over nearly eight weeks. For this exhibition they wish to share some of the experiences and images of this phenomenal UN project, which they ‘captured’ along the way.
The artists, Helen Kirwan and Simon Pruciak travelled together with architect Jarek Karpik.