Far Away, So Close is an exploration of attempts to create genuinely intimate spaces both in real life and virtually. The idea of presence and human contact via the virtual has come to be seen as possible and possibly inevitable, if only out of necessity. Well before COVID-19 brought us into quarantine, far from contact with others, our world had been transformed so that our relationships are often made online, sustained through emojis and quick check-ins, expanded via video chats and ended via text.
What then do we mean by the word intimate? If it isn’t the human touch combined with a kind of spiritual presence brought about in the physical presence of the other, is the meaning of the word being watered down or transformed, or is our understanding of the intimate being expanded and the idea of presence becoming more profound, stretching to include even those with whom we do not share a physical space?
The artists in Far Away, So Close have addressed this in a number of ways. Many of the works were made before the pandemic, others were made in response to it. Mickalene Thomas’ Je t’aime (2014) is a close up meditation on the lover’s body, fragmented, caressed by the eyes and the camera. But that kind of touch is exactly what is left out in Skin Hunger (1&2) by the podcast Death, Sex, & Money. Just as these address the issue of touch, Lauren Lee McCarthy’s I heard TALKING IS DANGEROUS (2020) makes the challenges of proximity painfully clear under the pandemic. Similarly, Angela He’s online game a new life (2020) looks at the challenges of new love as it makes its way toward greater and more complicated intimacies, as does the episode of the podcast The Cut, in which two strangers dive into the intimate, for better or worse, with a two-week first date. Whether in painting, as in the work of Bayan Kiwan (MA ’20), or the voyeuristic photos of Katia Repina (Intimacy in times of Corona, 2020), online services (Lam Thuy Vo’s Carebot, Caroline Sinders’ Social Media Break Up Coordinator 2015—Current, Tega Brain’s Smell Dating, 2016), or games (Kaho Abe), or even prints of touches to a screen (Tamiko Thiel) and intimate conversations held virtually (Pelankeke Brown), the artists demonstrate the broad array of possible meanings, mistiniterpratations, and challenges inherent to new versions of intimacy.