15 Mar 2020

more distance between us

It seems timely to revisit a book I put together a few years ago called Distance Between Us. The images I chose illustrated my love of city life: the democracy of public space (the civilisation of civic space?). Moments where we share intimate proximity with strangers, creating serendipitous relationships on the wing. 
At least that's what we used to.
The current coronavirus crisis has meant fundamental changes to our daily interactions with each other. A new phrase social distancing has entered the language. It's a fascinating and terrifying concept. It arguably strikes to the heart of our lives as citizens. We take freedoms of association and movement so easily far granted in what I'll call liberal democracies. Well this is a global crisis with lives of millions of people at risk (not forgetting the other one). Rome, Madrid and New York are already under states of emergency. Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin and Berlin limiting public gatherings. The very fabric of city life has disappeared overnight.
London waits.
man at Piccadilly Circus
man on Piccadilly 
Earlier this month I was at a strangely empty Photographers Gallery. Ten days later I wonder when I'll next be at an exhibition, performance or indeed any public gathering. I was there to see four nominees for the Deutsche Börse prize and admired the multidisciplinary approach of Mohamed Bourouissa including a piece of augmented reality.
London street image
Reserve army of the unemployed, Mohamed Bourouissa
The comparison with these shrouded figures to the images we're seeing daily of  health workers clad in hazmat suits was powerful. Seeing them materialise in the gallery, silently observing our entitled behaviour, revealed the surrealism of our situation. It's a rude awakening.


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