Statement by Juanma González

With the daily presence of horses in my residence in Brucebo Stipendium, I wondered whether I could explore pilgrimage by horse riding. I have never ridden before. I talked with a friend and she went ahead with my proposal.

Supported by Baltic Art Center, I put myself and 5 horse-friends in a situation outside of the everyday life. We traveled on a Pilgrim Way from Visby to St Olofsholm. It passes by and connects to Medieval churches, old limestone quarries, farms occupied since ancient times, archaeological remains and low-population parishes. For 3-days pilgrimage, we shared a journey as a diverse community of architects, local business owners and artists: we talked to solve setbacks, we cooked for people living in the parishes where we had stopped, we became friends and made new friends. We used this journey by horseback as a research fieldwork for exploring a specific path, from a hedonistic point of view, and to enable encounters between visitors and local people, from a relational attitude. Our aim was to research how a religious path could transform into a tourist offer following the model of Camino de Santiago in Spain or S:t Olavsleden in Scandinavia.

Many things come up when project has been done. From my previous pilgrim experiences, I prefer make a pilgrimage by foot. Walking lights a ritualistic attitude. This makes the behaviour of pilgrim different that tourist. By horse and by bike, I got lost this behaviour. But doing a pilgrimage by horseback in November, we achieved a surprising media repercussion in Gotland. This gave us the opportunity to get in contact with the social and cultural fabric of the island. By meeting people living in the island, it made us know more about current political reality of the island: the presence of 18000 soldier next summer and the lack of fresh-water during the summer.

From Latin, Pilgrim means stranger. In this context, stranger means a person that have a seeking attitude. As a visitant from overseas, I explore Gotland from different perspective: my personal experience, cultural background and my perception as a walking artist. Gotland is a flat island. High tower of the Churches are visible from long distance. Using them as land markers, I got inspired for creating a 'secular' pilgrimage.

Nowadays, Gotland is synonymous with hedonistic place. But the essence of Gotland is more than that, it is writing its history in a book that tells about its political influence over Baltic Sea and people have built its heritage. As reflection of shifting world in which we live, our journey has written a footnote in this book as a poetic passage by riding horses.

Juanma González
Stockholm. Monday 19th, December. 2016