Remote relations, cultures of distance

 

Artwork from Zoom website, https://zoom.us/docs/en-us/covid19.html

Among the most unsettling attributes that have quickly gained notoriety (and poignancy) due to the current crisis’ new linguistic conventions and discursive framings can be counted “from a distance” or “remote”. In particular, the prescription of “social distancing”, which for too long has been met with incomprehension and reluctance, plunged the idea that intimacy relies on physical proximity into deep crisis. Instead, the possibilities and necessities of non-physical proximity as well as long-distance business and educational relationships have been granted utmost importance. The Greek prefix τῆλε (tele) and its inimitable career in image and media technologies, through optical devices such as the telescope and the telephoto lens or in apparatuses like “tele-vision” gains an ethical dimension and at the same time seems to break ontological ground.

This new meaning of the long-distance relationship is far less novel than what is being presented at the moment. If Skype and Zoom are heralded as tools of learning and teaching, planning meetings and unplanned socializing in “remote” mode, they can also be seen as a re-enactment of individualized and locally unbound study. This was the case with television and how it was implemented by Western educational systems through didactic – rehearsed pedagogical sub-departments such as tele-learning or school television and educational institutional inventions exemplified by the distance remote learning universities of the late 1960s to the 1980s – arguably the most glorious example being the BBC’s intersection with the British Open University.

At a more fundamental level, however, every image is to be considered a distancing tool. In “Nah und Fern zum Bilde”, a short 1986 essay (the title of which was also used for a later anthology of some of his miscellaneous essays) by the late art historian Martin Warnke incorporated these somewhat mysterious sentences: “The gaze from a close range can be found suspicious of wanting to examine something, as if to watch something with a magnifying glass. To look at an image from close range usually implies wanting to get something out of it that it never wanted to give.” This formulation, inspired by a Rubens drawing of a Pordenone fresco, may be taken as advice for how to behave in these days. TH

March 19th, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes
Interface

Short notice: Jean-Luc Godard, live interview with Lionel Baier (écal/HEAD, Geneva) via Instagram, April 7, 2020, 2.30 pm! Now also available here.

April 7th, 2020, Tom

Brought to our attention by Derek Gregory via his resourceful Geographical Imaginations blog: an open call for contributions to the “Corona Notebooks” of Warscapes, a recommended independent online magazine “that provides a lens into current conflicts across the world.” Warscapes is looking for short, 2-3 minute videos “of yourself thinking about this pandemic, maybe accessing a previous memory, maybe reporting on an injustice, maybe narrating a sweet fragment from your daily life, maybe recounting a second chance that this pandemic gave you, maybe telling us about a loved one you reconnected with, maybe you’ve seen a movie or read a book that was powerful, maybe telling us about having the illness. The tone, the tale, the genre and the language is yours to choose. There is an overwhelming amount of news and information but we will together weave an emotionally vibrant and artistic tapestry.”

April 3rd, 2020, Tom

Almost too good to be true in these times of pandemically enforced streaming: Means TV claims to be “the world’s first worker-owned, post-capitalist streaming service,” “entirely funded by people like you.” It has “a library of films, documentaries, and shows with new programming added all the time,” as well “live weekly shows covering news, the working class, gaming and sports. All available to subscribers for $10/month across desktop, mobile and smart TV devices like Roku, Fire and Apple TV. No advertisements or product placements. No corporate backers or VC cash ever.” See also the respective article at Hyperallergic.

April 1st, 2020, Tom
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