Salty Feet: Passeggiate Romane (Extraits)

Kinga Araya

Kinga Araya is a Polish-born and Canadian-educated artist and art historian who currently lives and works in Rome, Italy. She completed interdisciplinary doctoral studies at Concordia University in Montreal in Art History and Visual Arts. Her thesis “Walking in the City: Motif of Exile in Performances by Krzysztof Wodiczko and Adrian Piper” was complemented by a thesis exhibition, entitled Prosthetic Self where she performed some of her theoretical and visual preoccupations concerning the identity of Canadian minorities.

November 2011

First Walk: The Capitoline Museums

Kinga Araya, Salty Feet : Passagiate 1, vidéo, 3 minutes 30 secondes, 2011.
© Kinga Araya, 2011.

Walking in Rome gets more rewarding when I embrace the historical and personal narrative into my peripatetic performance.

After visiting many museums, art galleries, and churches, I noticed there was a great number of truncated feet and legs that were shaped out of different materials, forms and sizes, made at different times, and for different purposes.

One of the most impressive feet that I have encountered in Rome are those of Emperor Constantine. His 12 meters high acrolith stood in the Basilica di Massenzio in the Forum Romanum. The head, arms, feet and hands were carved in marble, whereas the other parts of the body, today absent, were wooden structures covered in gilded bronze and precious marbles. The remaining parts of the sculpture are exhibited in the Capitoline Museums.

The Emperor’s feet seemed to be – simultaneously – at rest and in motion; they act as powerful signatures that speak about the greatness of the Roman Empire.

However, those giant feet cannot go anywhere… They belong to the Eternal City and will remain in the first cortile of the Palazzo dei Conservatori.

The feet looked at me defiantly. I did not know how to comprehend those white, naked and genderless shapes, and yet they attracted me, they drew me towards them. Dwarfed in front of the Emperor’s feet, I could not leave the courtyard without taking them for a walk.

Second Walk: Ex-Campo dei Profughi: Giambattista Pagano Street, 47

Kinga Araya, Salty Feet : Passagiate 2, vidéo, 3 minutes 10 secondes, 2011.
© Kinga Araya, 2011.

I spent the first couple of days of summer 1988 in this refugee camp, located on Giambattista Pagano Street, 47, near Largo di Boccea.

This building used to be a real Tower of Babel, resonating with a mixture of languages usually spoken East of the Iron Curtain.

The camp was overseen by an Italian security guard who had a booth at the building’s main entrance. He rarely asked for I.D. cards, so many – like me, not officially registered – would sneak into friends’ rooms.

It was during those times that I became acutely aware of the fragility of being a young immigrant woman.

This building tasted the same as many tears shed over broken friendships, marriages, attempted suicides and rapes. How could anyone ever recount all the laments of too many immigrants who were desperately searching for the meaning of their lives?

There were only mute and mutilated mattresses, stacked one on top of the other, and discarded pieces of furniture … They were the only witnesses of those powerful moments that now seem so unreal. I could only archive them as life … that-once-was.

Eighth Walk: Vicolo del Piede

Kinga Araya, Salty Feet : Passagiate 8, vidéo, 2 minutes 14 secondes, 2011.
© Kinga Araya, 2011.

Wanting to re-trace my invisible text, left in the streets of Rome, I felt compelled to spiral back to vicolo del piede, right in the heart of Trastevere.

I returned to this place where I strolled differently over twenty years ago, walking in “borrowed shoes” and speaking “borrowed tongues”, following the uncanny timeline of my biography.

I used to work here as a cleaning lady – la donna di servizio – for an Italian couple who had been living in their charming two story-palazzo for almost half a century. It was my last job in Italy before I left Rome for Canada in 1990.

I walked back and forth, measuring the length of this short and narrow medieval street with my steps, counting up to one hundred and three.

My legs have a special appreciation of this street; they brought me back to the same spot where, in the late eighties, I was symbolically “baptized” as a future scholar and artist who would be fascinated with the iconography of feet and the phenomenon of walking.

Tenth Walk: The Quo Vadis Church and Via Appia Antica

Kinga Araya, Salty Feet : Passagiate 10, vidéo, 3 minutes 17 secondes, 2011.
© Kinga Araya, 2011.

This small, one nave church, remains special as it is at the heart of a turning point of Saint Peter’s life and it is celebrated in a late nineteenth-century Polish novel, Quo Vadis.

According to a tradition that goes back to the second century AD, the little chapel was erected in the very place where Christ appeared to Peter who, avoiding execution, was fleeing Rome. When the Apostle asked Christ “Quo vadis Domine?”, “Lord, where are you going?”, Christ responded that he was going to Rome to be crucified for the second time. It was a clear message for Peter to return to the city where he would be crucified and buried.

With time, the small chapel was transformed into the Quo Vadis church, mentioned for the first time in an anonymous, medieval guide to Rome from the twelfth century. The major restorations of the church were conducted in the seventeenth century under Pope Paul V and Cardinal Francesco Barberini, giving the church its present classicizing appearance.

A Polish writer, Henryk Sienkiewicz, wrote Quo Vadis during his visits to Rome, at the end of the nineteenth century. His historical novel highlights the Christian struggle in the first century within the Roman Empire during the reign of Caesar Nero. Sienkiewicz works on many plots and converges them to a climactic encounter between Christ and Peter on via Appia Antica.

The Appian Way remains one of the oldest, preserved roads built by the Romans.

I imagine that Saint Peter must have walked on these large volcanic stones called basolato, when he made his last trip from the East towards the West, from Galilee to Rome.

Pour citer cette page

Kinga Araya, « Salty Feet: Passeggiate Romane (Extraits) », MuseMedusa, no 9, 2021, <> (Page consultée le ).

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