Bringing Us Close at A Distance


An essay by Nina Djekić


Objects can form a reflective surface through which we look at each other indirectly. As an interface they can offer us a way to affect each other, without needing to express an intention directly. In certain situations, such as exhibitions, relating to each other through another presence allows for a dance of proximities and distances that would in other circumstances be uncalled for or met with suspicion.

How much do we forget about each other and how much are we reminded of each other’s proximity when we get attracted to an object that exerts some form of gravitational pull on us, be it a work of art or a beautiful scarf in a shop or an object of worship. Do we consciously move to re-­‐constitute our relations to each other?

The presence of artworks in a museum gives us an agency to move in that space, our presence there makes sense because of something outside of us. When the artworks are absent, we too lose our reason to be there. This particular constellation loses the gravity it needs to keep itself together (alive).

In some temples in Japan, the presence of secret Buddha statues hidden in darkness attracts pilgrims and others to experience the very unique atmosphere created by its presence -­‐ some say they encounter the Buddha itself. A temple could also be a place where the secret Buddha was once situated, still possessing enough of that specific energy to be differentiated from other temples. Even in absence it can still attract.

It is often things that bring us together and give us a reason to keep each other’s company when we otherwise wouldn’t have even met. There is a specific intimacy in the moment when we encounter a work of art (or object) that affects us alongside a stranger, a friend or a lover. It is those very things that affect us, that affect our presence with each other. Every step we make from that moment on becomes a small dramatic gesture, a gesture of distancing oneself into a new situation. As art critic and theorist Michael Fried complained, museums are theatrical, like any other place can be, the difference is whether we are conscious of it or not, if we are conscious of being ourselves theatrical.

Nina Djekić (Ljubljana, 1989), based in Ljubljana and Singapore, graduated with a BA in choreography from School for New Dance Development SNDO and an MFA from Sandberg Instituut, both in Amsterdam.

Her work revolves around choreographic notions in exhibitionary settings. It looks at the psycho-somatic engagements between the artwork and the visitor as well as the affect the uncanny presence of artworks has on the relationship between the visitors themselves. It is important to her practice to think of those encounters as processual and time bound. Her latest work focuses on the sensuality of the gaze and the reconsideration of vision as felt perception.

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