Distance and Proximity

By Lars Buchardt

It is a great deal more interesting to dissolve identity than it is to pin it down;
discontinuity is far more worthy to be coveted than continuity;
as regards cognition, hybrid and flowing ideas are a lot more fruitful than established identities;
discontinuity and oblivion of the self are prerequisites for the reinvention of art;
prerequisites for being able to move from one's own position to someone else's.


Here there is neither a physical nor a conceptual space. Here are only 'sites' with nothing between them, no concept of distance, no spaces, no landscapes, no architecture, no bodies, no sense of touch, no taste, no smells - nothing. Only interiors without exteriors.
The term 'distance' may be understood both physically - in the most literal sense - and conceptually, as what makes travel, movement and access to something a function of time.
Distance creates order. You are in a place from which some things are nearby and others are further afield. You can move between them.
Distance makes things tangible. You can contemplate a room and establish what is inside it. Or, if it is blurred or large, you can try to imagine what it might contain.
Distance creates neutral spaces. Distance implies space between places from which subjects can see each other and participate in immediate relations. Distance makes community and proximity possible.
'Surfing': I use the word because there is no other. It is misleading; I do not surf and I do not experience anything that feels like waves. I am sitting at a table with a monitor, some light effects and a mouse. I am in a loop. When I am surfing I always get the feeling that I am not finding the place where the party is on.
But there is no party because there are no people. The Net creates an oddly silent and nameless relationship between subject and object because they are in a vacuum with nothing and no one else present. I tend to forget several of the places that I have 'visited' - perhaps due to the fcat that I have actually never been there. The places, that I have 'been' to, know that someone has 'been' there, but not that it was I. Changing this state of affairs is not an option; if I speak, no one answers and I cannot look back or to the side to see if someone else might be there. There are only point-to-point messages. Symmetrical? No, rather a feedback loop - lonely interaction. Nevertheless, the messages, that I get, look pretty much like the messages I get outside the electronic non-place. They may be:

Inquiring - those that ask for information.
Informative - those that give information.
Imperative or influential - those that cause a change in the receiver.

The dualistic view of man and the dualistic view of the world constitute some of the prerequisites for the excesses of the science fiction novels and films of the past few decades; transcendental concepts of 'Cyberspace,' the virtual, parallel world, the 'metaverse' with its possibilities for the melting together of body and soul, body and mind - for the cancellation of the division.
However, the fascination of Internet has waned off. There was no melting together, no amalgamation, no removal of divisive lines. There was no perfect communication - on the contrary: there was mainly a moving around between islands of information - alternating unpredictably between relevance and irrelevance (the great grid is not owned by us, but by the capital and by military forces).


As in:

'Landscape' means -?
'Light' means -?
'Darkness' means -?
'Face' means -?
'Body' means -?
'Distance' means -?
'Movement' means -?

These are questions, which may be answered solely by the help of academia's stock of methods. I think the answers will remain locked up safely inside the dusty buildings.
The questions may also be answered without the use of concepts: decriptive in an emotional and sensory, perhaps poetic, perhaps rambling and hallucinatory sense. Similarly, I think the answers will stay inside the greenhouses and now, again, I have run into a difference.
When talking about art we talk about meaning. Indiscriminately: about communication, dialogue and emotional and sensory influences. Transcendence.The beautiful and the sublime. About historical, philosofical and psychological references. Idealism and materialism. About names that are perceived to be important - have your pick. About identification, naming and labelling (thereby perhaps rendering them harmless) conducted by a given order or power structure in society - eg in the museums (metaphysical junk-yards - an expression conceived by Robert Smithson). About the artist's subject. How much does it produce and to what extent is it a product itself? What speaks through it? About the subject generally, and where did it go? (Etymologically, 'subject' is related to 'subjection.'). About the triangle artist, artwork and observer - a compulsive idea that revolves around the right of ownership and the distribution of roles. Or about attempting to unite artwork and observer in one process of meaning. About the institution of art and about seeking to be a part of it, to avoid it, change it, or destroy it. About being affirmative or subversive. About the autonomous and the contextual. About language, codes and contexts that determine how we read and receive and how we experience influences through our senses.

In the models, ideas and conflicts described above ways of relating to art and to the world that are very different in nature are used. There are two (main) languages, two (main) methods.
There is the cold one, consisting of scientific, scholarly (socializing), often metaphysical methods, that attempt to create distance to the World (and to art) in order to analyze it; that is, attempt to take it apart completely, eg in form and content, in indexes, symbols and icons, denotation and connotation, the relationship between subject and object. Methods which, on the basis of their precarious perception of themselves, look like they were at a distance. Mind over matter. They attempt to outline an overall chart with well-defined limits through identification and categorization. Control. Has an examination that did not impact on its object ever been carried out? Has anyone ever investigated anything without influencing the result? How do you piece together the fragments to form an image that can withstand more than mere decipherment simply to be abandoned - dead, empty, made into words, redundant and trivial? (But then, of course, it is under control). Anyhow, these ways of understanding things must strive to be impersonal and anti-social in order to make sense.
And there is the hot, epistemological methods, means that disperse themselves. They seem to keep clear of - or perhaps pass straight through - any kind of learned and scientific method and language.They do not acknowledge delimitations of genres; yet that does not mean they are not subjected to anything normative. Throughout history they have amassed manyfold habits and metaphysical ideas, which they do not always reflect on because they do not occupy themselves much with reflection in a stringent sense; they sense things and are tremendously productive and expressive and lively. 'Insane' -sometimes metaphorical and metonymical - the terms are circulating freely. They do not work analytically; they work synthetically - trying to unite the world. They often concentrate on the detail and move through it to get to the entirety. They do this because they believe there is an immediate, raw language, which is pure denotation - and sometimes they do get nearer to it. They think there are no boundaries or rather, they think they can move osmotically through all languages and devise their own passionate or ecstatic ones; they think they are oceanic, they think they are capable of engaging themselves in the world infinitely - ultimately without self-consciousness. They strive to be swallowed up by the entirety. They imagine that everything is proximity.
The 'cold' as well as the 'hot' language can move both vertically and horizontally. But the deficiencies of both languages are all to clear.
The cold one is stringent, articulated, moves mainly vertically and lets impressive buildings of thought emerge. But those are not buildings in which you can live. Here is, again, only interiors without exteriors - no walls and no body. This is analogous to cyberspace novels' visions of Internet of the future, consisting of fluorescent, flickering buildings and constructions made of information.
The 'hot' language sprawls unpredictably; it is intoxicating, subterranean, sometimes visionary, sometimes ignorant, sometimes without consciousness, non-linguistic. Translating it is tricky and it is often unintelligible if placed outside its own context; it works only - and can only be sensed - if you are devoted and ecstatic. These are states of mind that do not last - we know that.

This division between analysis and synthesis, the cold and the warm, distance and proximity, is somewhat similar to the still dominant contrasts between word an image. This idea is an unhappy misconception; it is a compulsive boundary and thoughts are probably often guided by it blindfold. This text is, without doubt, subject to that misconception as well; increasingly, it moves in circles, returns and mirrors itself - the text is messing me about. However, the following can hardly be a moot point: when you look closely and listen carefully you will know that the oral and the written representation is full of images and that the visual representation is full of language. There is a difference and a distance, but that is not the same as if they were diametrically opposed. Perhaps the idea stems from the contrast between culture and nature, and if you take it a step further, it may stem from the contrast between body and consciousness (the mind/body problem).
Inserted: the image as nature and body and words as culture and spirit - consciousness.

A false note seems to be sounding:
I have noted the idea of an affinity or likeness between words and the distantiated, experimentally objective perception of the world and of art, and I have claimed that this perception often results in death-like indifference. It must be due to a misconception caused by patterns or compulsive ideas that I make these couplings: words - analysis - death.
Perhaps it would be constructive to illustrate yet another distance: the one that exists between words and text and substitute words with text and death with bewilderment. This manuscript is perhaps an example of text - something that is texture, material, hybrid - woven; something which - I hope - is not perceived as dead, but as explorative and inquiring.
Anyhow: Words are not just words. They have meaning. God's words. Logos. Christ.

"In a sense God died the moment Adam threw away the core. And as what was left of the fruit decomposed into the ground, God's relationship with the subject decomposed as well. Language now took on a new function: to find God and to fill the void left behind by his passing."
(Peter Bebergal, "A Meditation on Transgression. Foucault, Bataille and the Retrieval of the Limit." (Ctheory.net)).

I have described the scientific and the analytic as cold and distantiating and the synthetic as hot and as something that wants to be engulfed by the entirety. None of this is certain. The analytic can also be intoxicating and daunting. It can turn into an out-of-the-body experience that lures you on and provokes fear. It may well be ecstatic - just like the synthetic. It may reveal vast, empty spaces in our comprehension of things, and experiencing this can force your consciousness to focus on existential questions that may change your life, destroy it or enrich it.
The synthetic is not necessarily hot; on the contrary, it may result in something completely frozen - in a kind of intellectual as well as emotional heat death or entropy. It may confine itself to move around blindfold and horizontally in patterns that encompass everything - thereby blurring all your bearings in the landscape. The productive may invert itself and turn into its own opposite.


Top of page


Lars Buchardt Estlandsgade 20, 2. tv., 1724 Copenhagen V, Denmark, Phone +45 2216 9148
Email: larsbuchardt@gmail.com