Near Far – Gerhard Marx writes about his most recent work
If an encounter with an object is an encounter of presence, then the idea of distance would in some way propose an opposite encounter, an encounter with absence. Of course, there is an emotional root to an encounter with distance; distance is an open space for longing, an architecture for loss, a space of blurred certainty, an entry point to the sublime. The question, however, is to engage distance without it turning into nearness.
In these works, I return to the idea of (visual) distance. Within the restrictive surface-area of each canvas, I set myself the task of exploring the possibilities of describing depths, volumes and distances. By playing with, manipulating and confusing the geometries that traditionally describe three-dimensional space (the spatial relation between objects, ground and horizon-line, what is in front and what is behind etc.), the work starts to propose impossible volumes, leading the eye into a depth of spatial imaginaries. Making these works has become both a meditative, contemplative act as well as a political act to me. I treat each work as a proposition, a poem or meditation. Each follows its own (il-)logic towards its own conclusion. Each is focussed on exploring new dimensions within the confines of its surface, creating new spaces in tight places, as it were.
I approach cartography as the precursor to the screen, an early form of a gaze that wants to bring everything, everywhere up close (Benjamin). It is this flattening gaze that saw to colonialism’s collapse of geographical distance and aided capitalism’s collapse of spatio-temporal distance, an anthropo-centred gaze that continuously folds terrain into territory, scape into site, that brings everything within its scope: up close, into flatness, under control. It is a gaze that uproots all by translating it into the virtual, a gaze that eliminates distance by bringing the physical into language.
Accordingly, the project of dissecting and reconstructing cartographic frames into sketches of volume and depth is a project that wants to re-imbue the object with a sense of distance and resist the cartographic frame and its flattening gaze. It is a project that explores visual distance as a potential re-wilding of the perceived environment. It is a feral cartography, a cartography that wants to lose grip on what it holds, allowing territory to recede into distance; it wants to lose focus, blur clear meaning, cede control.
I have worked on these maps during this peculiar time of enforced ‘social distancing’. This is a time of great uncertainty and vulnerability. It is a time in which the virtual flourishes to bring a sense of togetherness, desperate to breach ‘across’. But it is also a rare time where there is a sudden emphasis on the physical, and specifically on the value of the spaces between, an emphasis on spatial distribution (and the impossibility thereof). It is a strange time where we look after each other, but not at each other. Where we paradoxically care for each other, not through intimacy, but through distance. In this time, distance is a thick, tangible presence. Distance does not slip away; instead, distance is ‘kept’. Distance has, perhaps, never been so close.
– Gerhard Marx, April 2020