Comfort of Long-Distance Perceiving, 2014
Places in public space of the town, where we are able to look up to the horizon line are exceptional in a landscape. In these places we experience special kind of pleasure named a comfort of long-distance perceiving.
- Janusz Skalski
My inspiration to create the work Comfort of long-distance perceiving was a text by Janusz Skalski, landscape theorist. He writes about the situation of city residents (in the lowlands), where the possibility of looking into the distance is limited by the ubiquity of dense and high infrastructure. At the same time, a large concentration of visual stimuli - lights, advertisements, people and vehicles in motion - makes the moments in which it is possible an exceptional and desirable situation.
The comfort we experience when looking into the distance, is our inheritance from our distant predecessors. Open space, where we can see the line of the horizon, assured them that nothing unexpected was going to happen, nothing requiring reaction. Nowadays, our need of visual comfort is mostly fulfilled during our holidays outside the city, in the mountains or by the sea, where we can count on staring into the boundlessness unfolding before us.
The small town of my origins and the highland areas surrounding it provided decidedly more opportunities for such meditative staring in the distance than in Warsaw, where I currently reside. The Vistula River bank and the moment I cross it, when I am on the bridge and can look into the distance are the moments I like most among the range of visual sensations the city has got in its offer. I decided to take on this subject when I applied for an arts residency in Singapore. This city-country with its territory marked out entirely with marine borders, appealed to me as a perfect location for the performance of the project related to this issue.
It resulted in a video installation which consists of eight projections. Each image in the series has an identical composition structure, each of them shows a figure standing in the middle of the film frame, with its back turned towards the viewer and looking straight on into the distance. The line of the horizon, on each screen, remains at the same level – one third of the screen and at the same time it is located at the eye level of the viewer. The installation is composed of eight screens surrounding the viewer all around, thus creating a line of horizon surrounding them. Every video was created on one of the beaches of the city-country and it forms a kind of a set of sights seen by people looking into the distance, who stand at the sea side. In effect, the viewer placed in the centre is surrounded by the sea, they stand in place of an island. The similarity of the composition structure of individual screens builds a feeling of consistence, continuity, infinity.
Apart from the aspect of perception of a distant space, this work also features the element typical to our perception which is sensitivity to motion. An absence of motion as well as of the possibility of looking into the distance is related to an absence of a necessity to react. The use of a tiny loop in a different manner affects various fragments of the image. Motion of water in a loop seems natural. This is why our perception of the image is as if it were in motion, a film, changing in time. Whereas, the human figures are almost motionless and they look like those in photographs. The work is complemented with sound recorded at one of the locations and, like the images, looped in a manner unrevealing the moment of change. However, the interval is significantly longer in the sound and the presence is not so easily perceptible. This additionally enhances the pursuit for the film character of the work. This combination of motion and motionlessness makes the viewer uncertain of what type of image they are dealing with. Even if at the rational level they are able to determine it, those two elements, the human figure and the sea background seem to belong to different orders. By being present in one image they cause anxiety.
The viewer watches, just like the figure in front of them is doing so. It allows them for identification at some level. At the same time they still find it strange. They do not see its face, cannot read its mood, thoughts. The information they have about it is more prone to indicate differences rather than similarities. They are condemned to closeness and distance.
In the instance of Comfort of long-distance perceivingthe figure of the viewer watching the screen is duplicated with the figure of a person looking at the horizon on the screen. We can discuss some duplication not solely on the level of a physical situation of the viewer. The distance portrayed in the work, which is watched by the figures, just like the looped projection form becomes a visual definition of infinity. Hence, in a way the viewer experiences the same as the persons they see on the screens. The infinity of time and space are interwoven.
This series was created as part of the the Objectifs Residency & Lab Programme, supported by the National Arts Council, Singapore.