Crossing the Danube

The body, they say, is a boat and the soul is the sailor. Samsara is the ocean which is crossed by the great sages.
-Uttaradhyayana Sutra 23.73

Dedicated to Bulgarian curator and art critic Ruen Ruenov

The simple act of swimming across a river between Romania and Bulgaria symbolized the crossing of a linguistic, cultural and political boundary.

As I sat on the balcony of the residence house at Plein Air Oryahovo looking down from the hill on the Danube and the flat sprawl of Romania beyond the river, I was trying to come up with a meaningful artwork. "Maybe I should swim across the river?" I said thinking out loud.

"You are going to swim across the river?" asked Ruen, "Yes – You WILL swim across the river!" he said more forcefully, "This has meaning to the Bulgarian people''. Thus the negotiations with the fisherman and the Romanian border patrol started. I was aware that the Bulgarians crossed the Danube in the 7th century under Khan Asparuh and I was interested in the role the river played in European history.

It has stood as a border between many European states, The Roman Empire and the so-called Barbarians, Communism and Democracy. This border has been used in armed and cultural conflicts that Europe has participated in since its beginnings. Yet, beyond the rigidity of the border concept, the river itself is a symbol of impermanence, continually changing from one moment to the other and metaphorically symbolizing life itself. It moves forward, blaming not one for the wars, quarrels and righteous insults that the various tribes of Europe subject each other to.