The projects were inspired by Tschiffely’s Ride, a 10,000 mile journey from Buenos Aires to New York (1925-1928) by Swiss-Argentine Aimé Félix Tschiffely on two Argentine criollo horses, Mancha and Gato. The criollo horse is a mixture of Arab and Barbary breeds, the name stemming from ‘creole’ with associations of social and cultural mixing. Tschiffely’s account was published in 1933, the same year Hitler seized power in Germany, implementing a bio-politics of hatred based upon an ideology of racial purity. In contrast, Tschiffely’s Ride is dedicated “to many friends – of whatever race, nationality or creed – Who did their utmost to make rough places smooth.”
In Birrell’s film, Criollo (2017), we encounter a solitary horse at the threshold to Central Park at the end of 6th Avenue - Avenue of the Americas. Photographs document the animal’s journey via air and road transportation as it appears at three identical equestrian statues to the Argentine leader, José de San Martín, in Buenos Aires, Washington D.C., and New York.
Linking the two cities of documenta 14, The Athens-Kassel Ride was undertaken by experienced long riders (Peter van der Gugten, David Wewetzer, Zsolt Szabo and Tina Böche) and their equine companions (Artvin, Issy Kul, Paco and Sanchez). The ride traced a 3000km trail through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany. The riders were accompanied by a Greek Arravani horse ‘Hermes,’ named by Birrell after the Greek god of border crossings. The Transit of Hermes is the journey of a Greek horse which also becomes a mythical messenger of the Gods, constantly in motion between two worlds.
From 19th April on, this project is also on view at CCA Glasgow as part of Glasgow International 2018.