Faraway, So Close

Faraway, So Close

Artist Cinemas

Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Framed (clip), 1989.

April 19, 2021
Faraway, So Close
A new program convened by Koki Tanaka
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e-flux is pleased to present Faraway, So Close, a six-part program of films and interviews put together by Koki Tanaka. It is the sixth program in Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film.

Faraway, So Close will run for six weeks from April 19 through May 31, 2021 screening a new film each week accompanied by an interview with the filmmakers(s) conducted by invited guests. 

The program opens with Bruce and Norman Yonemoto’s Framed (1989), screening from Monday, April 19 through Sunday, April 25 alongside an interview with Bruce Yonemoto conducted by art historian Rika Hiro.

With films by: Back and Forth Collective (Mei Homma, Natsumi Sakamoto, Asako Taki), Jennifer Clarke, Fionn Duffy and Sarah McWhinney; Yuki Iiyama; Yoi Kawakubo; Darcy Lange; Bruce and Norman Yonemoto; and Zhu Xiaowen; and interviews with the filmmakers and texts by Akira Rachi; Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck; Francesca Girelli; Rika Hiro; Lawrence McDonald; and Julian Ross

How human can our lives really be when infection prevention measures do not allow us to even mourn the deaths of our loved ones? I, you, we each have only one life to live. One birth, one death.  

Ironically enough, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has proved that the world is a single, globally connected community. Infiltrating one person after another, the virus reveals what it means to be human as it circles the globe. Humans are beings that touch each other. We make friends, make love, occasionally make enemies, and have built our societies, our communities, and our families through contact-based communication. At the same time, the virus divides those societies that humanity has built up and exposes the problems within them. Over the past year we have fallen into despair while clinging onto hope. Although we have seen the utopias of mutual aid and care that can arise out of disasters, in some cases, widespread anxiety brought on by the uncertainty about where things are headed has also been turned into hatred toward others.

Compared to the cities around the world that are in lockdown, Kyoto, where I live, has had only a few cases of COVID-19, and the atmosphere is still fairly relaxed. But, we constantly wash our hands and spray them with alcohol (which leaves my skin raw and chapped all the time). We wipe down our shopping with disinfectant sheets. We have delivery people leave packages outside our door. Maybe you feel the same way, but I’m afraid of infecting my family—especially my newborn child.

All kinds of concepts are getting thrown about now—from tele-working to social distancing to the new normal. Spread by epidemiologists and governments, these concepts can at times flatten the view of the world.

Social distancing, for example, promotes a view that applies a single standard to the diversity of our world. If we think about prevention measures individually, taking into account the circumstances of each person, it is true that everyone should have their own distance. But that kind of case-by-case judgment complicates our understanding of the world. So, we end up turning to an easy standard.

Daily reports on the numbers of new cases and deaths further accelerate the world’s flattening. These numbers in their tens and hundreds of thousands make us forget that each one of the counted—recognizable only as abstract data—represents its own distinct life.

The world has been overrun by the abstractions of concepts and numbers while our irreplaceable, individual lives go neglected. Yet, care for the other can make an abstract world more concrete.

I’m reading ethnographer Annemarie Mol’s book The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice (2008) at the moment. Mol uses the term “logic of choice” to describe the thinking behind the contemporary model of medical practice in which, rather than having the doctor unilaterally decide the care, the patient is expected to autonomously choose their own care after considering all the information and available options. But with some chronic diseases like diabetes—which Mol’s research focuses on—a complete cure or even a single course of treatment is almost impossible. Thus, the patient can only learn to manage their condition. Here, Mol discovers a logic of care at work. Where the logic of choice places the burden of decision on an autonomous patient, the logic of care privileges a collective approach, comprising not just doctors, nurses, or care workers, but also the family who live with the patient. And instead of choosing a uniform or generalized method, the emphasis is on providing individually responsive care and daily adjustments (what Mol calls “doctoring”) based on the concrete circumstances of the patient.

One thing I have come to realize from raising a child is that, no matter what style I set out to follow, childcare is always done on the basis of this child in front of me. Care is always about the individual patient; it is always concrete.

I view the relationship between the logic of choice and the logic of care that Mol discusses in her book in parallel with the relationship between an abstracted world and individual, concrete life during the pandemic. The autonomous individual is the premise for the logic of choice, but the truth is there is no such thing as an autonomous being. The pandemic has shown us just how fast our societies can collapse without our networks of interdependencies. The patient’s care network that Mol describes in the logic of care is not just about medical treatment. For us who live a life of collective interdependence, it is also about society itself.

The six videos presented in this program all either examine concrete life or show us how to recover it. What we need most right now is not the spread of more abstractions about the pandemic, but to look attentively at your concrete life, and then the concrete life of another. 

January 23, 2021

Koki Tanaka; translated from the Japanese by Andrew Maerkle


Week #1: Monday, April 19–Sunday, April 25, 2021 
Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Framed, 1989
8:04 minutes

Originally presented as a complex, layered installation, Framed is presented here in a single-channel version using two elements that were extracted from the installation. The first element is the film footage that was found by the artists at the US National Archives. These staged films, produced by the War Relocation Authority (WRA), captured a fictional idealized life of Japanese Americans in the American concentration camps during World War II. More than a hundred thousand innocent civilians of Japanese descent were incarcerated solely based on their ancestry. To legitimize the abrogation of civil rights, the WRA produced this wartime propaganda. The second element is the slide show in which the still images reframe the raw material of the WRA films. Describing the work, curator Karin Higa has written: “The discrepancy between still and moving pictures, the physical proximity and distance to the multiple layers of images, and the contrast between the vigorous activity as projected and silence with which it is received reproduce the conceptual space of personal and collective memory, suppression, and recovery.” (Karin Higa, “Bruce and Norman Yonemoto: A Survey,” Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Memory Matter and Modern Romance, Japanese American National Museum, 1999, p10.)

Week #2: Monday, April 26–May 2, 2021 
Yoi Kawakubo, Waiting for Diogenes, 2020 
74 minutes

An artist embarks on a research project to raise and live with an octopus as a partner for a year, by way of exploring the body-mind relationship and the political and social implications of alternative modes of consciousness. As the project develops, it takes an unsuspected turn when a global pandemic engulfs the world and most art projects are forced to stop. Unwillingly, the project evolves into research about a different matter.

Week #3: Monday, May 3–Sunday, May 9, 2021 
Zhu Xiaowen, Oriental Silk, 2015
30 minutes

Part of a long-term project of the same name, Oriental Silk is about touch and tactility, craft and value, and the colors of memory. The Oriental Silk emporium, located in Los Angeles, was the first Chinese silk importing business in the United States after WWII. Established more than four decades ago, the shop, which has risen alongside the Hollywood film industry, becomes a productive place to reflect on the astonishing histories of twentieth-century migration and to critique the idea of the American Dream. Through the worldview of the shop owner Kenneth Wong, the beauty of silk and its wondrous craftsmanship stand for the human pursuits that link people and places—and provide purpose—across time and borders. 

Week #4: Monday, May 10–Sunday, May 16, 2021 
Darcy Lange, Studies of teaching in four Oxfordshire schools: Eric Spencer, Art Teacher, Fifth Form, Cheney Upper School, Oxfordshire. Class study and students’ responses, 1977
31:59 minutes

This work belongs to the series commonly known as Work Studies in Schools, where Darcy Lange (1946–2005) focused on the process of teaching and learning in the classroom. The first of these studies took place in 1976 in the English city of Birmingham where Lange videotaped a number of classrooms in three schools, seeking to represent different social classes by recording in both private and public schools. In his later studies in four Oxfordshire schools in 1977, he focused on the teaching of art/music, history, and science and systematically introduced the element of feedback. For the first time, Lange not only videotaped each class in action, but also watched the tapes with the teachers and then the students, each time recording their reactions. Their responses became incorporated into the work and guided its development, and by exposing this process, Lange turned these into studies of videotaping as a work activity. Work Studies in Schools in many ways continues some of the concerns of Lange’s earlier work studies of British miners and factory workers. However, here Lange introduces and examines language for the first time; particularly, how the subject is defined by linguistic parameters marking social differences such as gender, race, and class, as well as cultural, economic, and ideological backgrounds, thereby, as Lange stated, aiming to “illustrate the social breakdown within each class.”

Week #5: Monday, May 17–Sunday, May 23, 2021 
Back and Forth Collective (Mei Homma, Natsumi Sakamoto, Asako Taki) and Jennifer Clarke, Fionn Duffy and Sarah McWhinney, Speculative Fiction: Practicing Collectively, 2020
25:45 minutes

Speculative Fiction: Practicing Collectively is a collective film inviting critical feminist perspectives from practitioners based in Scotland and Japan. The film was produced using digital spaces as platforms for experimental collaboration, whereby knowledge-sharing and mutual learning are meant as explicitly feminist acts. Made in 2020 and partly under lockdown, the film departs from the familiar ideas of domesticity, everyday labor, and care in the context of feminist practice, in order to reflect on a time when conditions have forced a reorientation and reorganization of social and work life—online and inside the home. 

Week #6: Monday, May 24–Sunday, May 30, 2021 
Yuki Iiyama, Old Long Stay, 2020
170:20 minutes

The term “Zainichi Koreans” refers to residents of Japan (and their descendants) who are originally from the Korean Peninsula—specifically, those who settled in Japan during its colonial rule of Korea due to conscription and economic and other historical factors. It is estimated that there are over one million such residents, including those who have been naturalized. In Japan today, everyone has the right to a disability pension, regardless of nationality. However, Zainichi Koreans above a certain age are left stranded in between the former and current systems, still unable to receive their benefits even as they pay taxes or become naturalized citizens. Over the years, the issue has resulted in a number of lawsuits and campaigns across the country. In Old Long Stay, Iiyama utilizes archival footage and interviews with plaintiffs (primarily among the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Kyoto) and their supporters, taking us on a journey through the historical and political aspects of this issue; the campaign across former leper colonies where the lack of compensation was, exceptionally, redressed; and the voices of the multiculturalism debate in the Higashi-Kujo area of Kyoto, home to a relatively large population of Zainichi Koreans.

Koki Tanaka is a visual artist whose diverse practice spans video, photography, site-specific installations, and interventions, and seeks to visualize and reveal the multiple contexts latent in everyday acts. In his early object-oriented works, Tanaka experimented with ordinary objects to explore ways of offering a possible escape from everyday routine. In later works, Tanaka asks participants to collectively navigate tasks that are out of the ordinary, seeking to reveal group dynamics in a micro-society and temporal community. Following the natural disasters of March 11, 2011 in Japan, his works have reflected on the relationality that arises between human beings, and what Tanaka calls “collective acts”—experiments of various sorts that lack a fixed destination. Tanaka has shown widely including at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), the Migros Museum (Zurich), the Kunsthaus (Graz and Zurich), the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles), the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), the ICA (London), the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017, the 57th Venice Biennale 2017, the Liverpool Biennial 2016, the 55th Venice Biennale 2013, the Yokohama Triennial 2011, the Gwangju Biennale 2008, and the Taipei Biennial 2006. He received a special mention for his participation in the Japanese national pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), and the Deutsche Bank Artist of the Year award (2015).

About Artist Cinemas  
Artist Cinemas is a new e-flux platform focusing on exploring the moving image as understood by people who make film. It is informed by the vulnerability and enchantment of the artistic process—producing non-linear forms of knowledge and expertise that exist outside of academic or institutional frameworks. It will also acknowledge the circles of friendship and mutual inspiration that bind the artistic community. Over time this platform will trace new contours and produce different understandings of the moving image.

For more information, contact program [​at​] e-flux.com.

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April 19, 2021

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