We read about your project THE GREATEST POSSIBLE DISTANCE (from the opening of the Olympic Games) in a local South African paper, BEELD of17 May 2012.
Hereby then our contribution.
The fictional character Liewe Heksie (meaning dear little witch) is a popular children’s book series written in the Afrikaans ( a minority group in South Africa) language.
Liewe Heksie is a little heroine in the minds of children and a worthy role-model through her unspoiled character and gentleness. She is the only witch in a flower utopia and loved by all despite her lack of magical skills and forgetfulness which leads to frightfully funny situations. Liewe Heksie lives in Blommeland (flower country) where the floral beauty is protected by a silver rose which is guarded in a palace where a king also resides.
Other characters include elves, flower-friends, fairies and animals. She and her tiny cat lives in a house with a star-filled kitchen due to the fact that she removed the pumpkins that kept the corrugated iron roof down. The roof was replaced with an skylight in order for her to see the stars. This star-filled kitchen is the suggested place to be during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games. Her kitchen speaks of moderation and will be warmed by a small fire since it is winter in South Africa in July.
The conversation will be funny and of local nature and will have nothing to do with global events as she is blissfully oblivious to it. The atmosphere will be relaxed and unpretentious because that is her very nature. The inhabitants of Blommeland are under no pressure to achieve in sport. This is in contrast with the Olympic Games where children are robbed of their childhood in the name of sport, medals and money. Her kitchen will provide emotional remoteness, silence and distance from the extravagant opening ceremony.
Elna Venter and Marna de Wet
IMAGINE_LEARNING FROM THE ASCENSION ISLAND
The project I propose for you is one that I’m exploring and could be a pilot for my research and wondered how you might respond to it in light of your proposal The Greatest Possible Distance.
I live a stone throw away from the Olympic Park, Leyton side, with looming towers of social housing?? dominating the landscape. I have not been successful in getting any tickets to the Olympics, and will not have the opportunity to go beyond the green wall (the barrier that once was), however it all feels familiar as images/news from inside are conveyed to the masses.
IMAGINE_LEARNING FROM THE ASCENSION ISLAND explores the concerns of the dialectic relationship between art and site, and the interdisciplinary concerns of the terms of engagement, and the modes of communication.
IMAGINE_LEARNING FROM THE ASCENSION ISLAND investigates alternative strategies for curating and for the presentation of work, as did the conceptual artists of the 60s and 70s by exploring art outside the gallery context to find ʻnew networks and means of disseminationʼ. IMAGINE_fictitious in nature exploits what Marshall McLuhan described in the 1960s as ʻa mediatised exchange system of information and imagesʼ.
The inspiration for the project is the Ascension Island a sovereignty of the British Crown, an isolated volcanic island in the equatorial waters of the South Atlantic Ocean – an unlikely destination for art goers – but who needs to go if you were to tap into the main industry of the island – communication. (In 1821 the Ascension Island became a victualling station and sanatorium for ships engaged in the suppression of the slave trade around the West African coast. Until recently Ascension Island was a main relay point of the coaxial submarine cable system laid between the United Kingdom, Portugal and South Africa with links to South America and West Africa. Other services operating on the Island include Cable and Wireless (previously known as the Eastern Telegraph Company) international satellite telecommunications service, the BBC Atlantic Relay Station, as well as hosts five ground antennas that assist in the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigational system.)
Neville, I would like you to travel to the Ascension Island (Military of Defence permissions required) to make a work whereby for the three hours of the opening ceremony the screen is the window and the web is the tool to experience and engage in the work thought the likes of google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, Chatroulette, YouTube, Second Life and ebay.
I think the ‘greatest distance’ must be metaphorical. I worry that to take yourself a literal distance away from the opening of the Olympic Games has the potential to be seen as arrogant when you’ve been so involved. Rather, I would like to see you try do something for those you identify as being adversely affected by London 2012 and its legacy.
As the opening ceremony begins with the arrival of the torch relay (from Greece and representing the Olympic Spirit), I propose that at the moment the flame is lit, you facilitate an alternative torch relay symbolising the ‘real’ spirit and legacy of the event.
The flame will be created by those identified as being dispossessed or disillusioned by the coming of the Olympics, whether through being moved from their houses, unable to get tickets or having to change the name of their shop. You will design an event whereby the dispossessed share their experiences before creating a flame which is carried, either by relay or as a group, to a predetermined destination where it will be symbolically presented/returned to the IOC.
The alternative torch relay will be documented through film, photography and the collecting of testimonies of the disposessed, the £1000 to be spent on event costs and publication.
The antipodian location would be 51S 179E give or take a few sea miles. If you set off from Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand you should head off in a South Easterly direction and sail or fly out about 700kms.
Please find below Oli’s and my response to your call for ideas:
Oliver: The Olympic machine tries to absorb everything of human and cultural value that it can. Sport, art, entertainment, ethics, politics, infrastructure and regeneration, civic duty, international relations, democracy, world peace, commerce and philosophy – the Olympics has a finger in every pie. It just sucks it all up into a vortex. It is difficult to think of a physical or philosophical space beyond its reach. To find and occupy that space would be to get as far away from the Olympics as possible.
Jess: The core of the Olympics is the celebration of human physicality, or physical ability, as a means of achieving super-human, near-godlike status. Mount Olympus was the seat of the gods. The Olympic torch represents the heavenly power stolen by Prometheus – a human victory over the gods, unlocking human potential. Through great feats of athleticism, Olympians
reach into a celestial, divine space. But over the past century, we have become more aware of physical human potential having been overtaken by technology. Technological prosthetics have helped man orbit the Earth and walk on the Moon. ‘Super-human’ has given way to ‘meta-human’, and the revelation that human potential is greater when combined with science and technology, which has somehow perhaps subverted our own understanding of our physicality as a species. In other words, the Olympics is all about
maxing out our human potential, but it tries to ignore the fact that we can go beyond human potential through technology. Like video-games and virtual worlds that enable us to remain relatively still physically, and simultaneously active and productive.
Oliver: The symbolism is blurred because Prometheus was arguably stealing a piece of technology, but I guess that’s the point – the modern Olympics is no longer a strong reflection of the Promethean ideal.
Jess: The notion of celestial space is key. Writing on the human condition, Hannah Arendt described the immediate reaction to the moon landing as one of relief, in the sense that humans could finally escape ’imprisonment to the earth’. That sense of going beyond the earth and reaching into a celestial space is a sentiment underlying the Olympics, but the advance of technology is making, or has made, that sentiment increasingly symbolic. It is this fracture between the ideals reflected in the aesthetics and
physical challenges of the Olympics, and what we now know is possible, that seems to offer an outside perspective on the Games. This shift in perception might perhaps call into question the philosophical foundations and motivations of the Olympics.
Therefore, to be the furthest from the Olympics, I imagine a space, whether real or virtual, just beyond the reaches of human strength and physicality. Obviously, the idea of space immediately conjures up ideas of physical remoteness, but it is the philosophical significance of space travel that is interesting. I imagine an artwork that engages directly with the duality of this metaphorical and physical distance. My proposal for the ‘furthest distance from the Olympics’ is to go to the NASA Goddard Space
Centre in the USA ( HYPERLINK “http://www.giss.nasa.gov/about/visiting/” \t “_blank”tp://www.giss.nasa.gov/about/visiting/) (or alternatively, the UK Space centre in Swindon!!) and, at the start of each
of the first event on each day of the Olympics, document the position of ‘Voyager 1’- the furthest satellite from Earth. It might also be interesting to record dialogues with both an aeronautical engineer and, separately, an athlete, about human potentiality and development, and the relationship between physical capabilities and technology.
Oliver: I don’t feel that I want to use the traditional Olympic ideal as a springboard to determine the furthest place from the Olympics. If the actual Olympics aren’t going to pay much attention to it, why should I? I’m more taken by this idea of the Olympics as a black hole of meaning, sucking all of human experience and value into it and belching it out. What are the things that even the Olympic machine wouldn’t try to co-opt? Could you spend the Olympic opening ceremony at a terrorist training camp? Or doing something morally good but not easily absorbed into a brand strategy, like helping to rehabilitate pedophiles? Distributing contraceptives to sex workers?
All the best,
At the now defunct airfield outside Richmond (in the Great Karoo desert, Northern Cape Province, South Africa) you will find the remnants of the old ‘airport control building’ – a ruin that consists of three and a half walls; there is no roof left, no door, no windows, just bricks and crumbling plaster. Here you will find no people, no noise, no technology and no hint of the Olympics. There is a solitary chair painted against one wall. If you seat yourself here during the day you will see only blue skies above. If you seat yourself here during the night you will see only starry skies.
There is no need to reserve the seat because nobody comes here anymore; just wild animals, birds, insects, perhaps a lonely lamb.
Even if you can not make it here, just imagine that you occupy the chair on the wall from wherever you are.
Don’t use the budget travelling far, learn argentine tango, it’s the ultimate escape to distance yourself form daily life, because you live in the moment of the 3 mins of the song just you and your partner in a collective experience with the dancers in the room….it’s hard to master, it awakens your brain and body to new experiences, its very addictive…….
Come along to tango south London TSL and learn salon tango from (imho the best in london, excellent teachers) Claire and Louis. Tom and I have been dancing at TSL for 6 years and it’s our physical and mental escape to another place, another culture and in many ways another time but paradoxically our way of appreciating and living in the moment.
Best wishes Kate