Introduction to a Distant World
In the descriptive representation of the multitude of human attainments, the unity principle can be conceived most likely under the keyword ‘distance’. An answer to the question ‘how is a human being possible’, could be: by distance. Hans Blumenberg
The ability to take distance has become a virtue in a time of constant immediacy. This exact ability or freedom of distance was all of sudden severely restricted and became a fundamental behavior of human existence. For many an incision in quotidian life, whereas for some artists distances are fundamental aspects of their artistic practice, e.g. the British artist Hamish Fulton (b. 1946). Walking distances for days and weeks means literally making the experience of distance. Experiencing the latter—not only in the sense of a haul between starting and terminal point, but also in a detached relation to both nature and society—is intrinsic for the walking artist—no walk no art. We (as spectators) can only reconstruct these distances by the enciphered (from our point of view) murals.
Distance does not only mean remoteness but can also exist in close proximity. Taking emotional distance, keeping it or renouncing it at the right time is one of the most difficult decisions you may sometimes have to make. The political artist Alfredo Jaar (b. 1956) leads us to this threshold in his video ‘Introduction to a Distant World’ from 1985. Images of workers in a Brazilian gold mine in Serra Pelada depict the intangible conditions of the production of a primary commodity. Jaar’s mise-en-scène makes this distant world disconcertingly accessible and criticizes the modern consumerist society along with its golden nimbus.