Faraway, So Close

Faraway, So Close
Convened by Koki Tanaka

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 Xiaowen Zhu; and interviews with the filmmakers and texts by Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck; Francesca Girelli; Rika Hiro; Lawrence McDonald; Akira Rachi; 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 on to 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

Faraway, So Close is a program convened by Koki Tanaka as the sixth cycle of 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

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 Biennial 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).

Artist Cinemas presents
Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Framed | Faraway, So Close: Week #1
Monday, April 19–Sunday, April 25, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Yoi Kawakubo, Waiting for Diogenes | Faraway, So Close: Week #2
Monday, April 26–Sunday, May 2, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Xiaowen Zhu, Oriental Silk | Faraway, So Close: Week #3
Monday, May 3–Sunday, May 9, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Darcy Lange, Studies of Teaching in Four Oxfordshire Schools | Faraway, So Close: Week #4
Monday, May 10–Sunday, May 16, 2021
Artist Cinemas presents
Yuki Iiyama, Old Long Stay | Faraway, So Close: Week #6
Monday, May 24–Sunday, May 30, 2021
Ruth Beale & Amy Feneck

have been collaborating as The Alternative School of Economics since 2012. As an “alternative school,” they link artists' practices with self-education as a way to study economics and economies. They are interested in reciprocal modes of learning and making, and their projects with communities create a framework for investigating political, social, and cultural issues.

Francesca Girelli

is an arts producer based in London. She currently works at Frieze as Head of Studios and Content Operations Manager. Her writing has been published in Kaleidoscope MagazineMousse MagazineObieg, and Frieze as well as by Van Abbemuseum and Delfina Foundation.

Rika Hiro

is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She is currently researching Japanese diaspora artists in mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles with a fellowship of the DNP Foundation for Cultural Promotion.

Yuki Iiyama

Yuki Iiyama lives and works in Tokyo. Her work comprises installations, videos, and objects such as hand-knitted tapestries. By using interviews and archival material, she examines the interrelationships between individuals, society, and history.

Yoi Kawakubo

is a Spanish-born Japanese artist based in London and Tokyo. He turned to artistic practice after receiving his degree in disabilities sciences and subsequently working as a financial trader for several years. He creates photographs, moving images, and sound installations that are often based on historical research and personal history. He is currently engaged in the artist-led movement rt for all in Japan.

Darcy Lange

(1946–2005) established a career in the late 1960s as a sculptor producing large, hard-edge abstract works, but soon turned to photography, film, and video. Among his body of work, Work Studies in Schools (1976–1977) has sustained significant attention for its pioneering contribution to social documentary practice.

Lawrence McDonald

Lawrence McDonald is a writer, editor, curator, and lecturer based in Wellington, New Zealand. Prior to contributing to Darcy Lange: Study of an Artist at Work, he curated a special section devoted to Lange’s work within the exhibition PALeo Neo Video: Chapters from the History of Video Art in New Zealand 1970s-1990s.

Akira Rachi

is an artist based in Tokyo, and a lecturer at Joshibi University of Art and Design. His recent exhibitions, performances, and projects include schibboleth (Space Dike, Tokyo, 2020-2021) and What we can do with a mobile kitchen #3 (blanClass, 2019).

Julian Ross

is a researcher, curator, and writer based in Amsterdam. He is Programmer at International Film Festival Rotterdam, Assistant Professor at Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, co-editor of Japanese Expanded Cinema and Intermedia: Critical Texts of the 1960s (Archive Books, 2020) and co-curator of the 2020 exhibition More Than Cinema: Motoharu Jonouchi and Keiichi Tanaami at Pioneer Works.

Speculative Fiction: Practicing Collectively

is a group of multidisciplinary practitioners who work internationally and collaboratively as well as independently, and includes individuals who are caregivers, artists, activists, curators, anthropologists, and/or musicians. The members are Mei Homma, Natsumi Sakamoto, Asako Taki [Back and Forth Collective], Jennifer Clarke, Fionn Duffy, and Sarah McWhinney. 

Bruce Yonemoto

has developed a body of work which positions itself within the overlapping intersections of art and the cinema screen. He believes that the composition of mass media has become a new historical site for the domination of human behavior. He is a Professor of Art at the University of California Irvine.

Norman Yonemoto

(1946-2014) was a Los Angeles video artist. Norman collaborated for nearly four decades with his brother Bruce, creating video works that often deconstructed and rewrote the hyperbolic vernacular with which the mass media constructs cultural mythologies, ironically employing the image-language and narrative syntax of popular forms such as soap opera, Hollywood melodrama, and television advertising.

Xiaowen Zhu

is a Berlin-based artist and writer. Her work is concerned with how things and beings migrate across time (historical and contemporary) and space (borders and boundaries) with a particular interest in personal witness and testimony. She is Assistant Director at Times Art Center Berlin.

Faraway, So Close 1–6 Contributors
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