TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 1988

NOT THE PRESENCE OF DISTANCE: A PROJECT FOR ARTFORUM BY NIEK KEMPS

V.

‘This town is new to me.’
‘Do you like it?’
‘Steam oozing from the ground is always
an impressive sight.’
‘It changes the sidewalk we are walking
on into a matted glass roof.’
‘And it turns the sidewalk into the upper
level of a strange kind of life-machine.’
‘A bit old-fashioned, though.’
‘What did you say?’
‘It reminds me of steam-driven vehicles
from the beginning of this century.’
‘Their slow pace seems a far cry from
what the city promises.’
‘Dinky toys flashing by, people stumbling in haste?’
‘And most of all, the buildings soaring up into the sky
‘This is the most horizontal city I have ever seen.’
‘But what about all those skyscrapers?’
‘Once you’re in between there is no overview.
‘What you’re saying is that the streets
seem like tunnels and that the sky is
broken up in pieces by the skyscrapers.’
‘It is because the view is blocked that
the skyscrapers fall over, making you feel
as if you’re standing on a short flight
of steps and looking out over a vast
swimming pool.’
‘That you could walk right across.’
‘A two-section roof, with no horizon.’
‘The buildings are high, but they look
flat; the ground looks solid, but it
is transparent.’
‘Anyhow, if all that imposing verticality
were true, you wouldn’t feel safe.’
‘In a black limousine with television and
tinkling ice-cubes, you always have
a good time.’

NOT THE PRES

U.

‘I can almost touch the eagle.’
‘Well, it looks like helicopters flying
below us, but then again. . .’
‘Aren’t you both exaggerating?’
‘Look around you. The clouds are softer than
your pillow.’
‘And. . . that’s quite a feeling!’
‘What feeling?’
‘I must say, we are enjoying an impressive view.’
‘Stunning.’
‘It’s as if height has changed into
a swimming pool: it’s only a reflecting surface.’
‘What strikes me the most is that there seems
hardly any difference between old and modern.’
‘I agree. From up here you see all kinds of
styles side by side.’
‘Notice how modern the past is.’
‘So high in the sky isn’t newer, but older.’
‘The buildings below us are merging.’
‘Despite the enormous differentiation,
everything is flat.’
‘Which means there is no view left?’
‘Exactly; the view has become a postcard.’
‘Live before our eyes.’
‘Movement and atmospheric disturbances
included.’
‘So you are stating that there is no more
view, no height, no old and no modern.
Isn’t that a little too much?’
‘Forgive me, I was carried away for a
moment.’
‘Anyhow, I won’t give in. Romantic dreams
and nostalgic speculations are over and
done with.’
‘Views are finished.’
‘And the world is flat again.’
‘The helicopters farther & farther below.’
‘And the eagle?’

ENCE OF DISTANCE

L.

‘The luxury of these cabins beats everything.’
‘I’d rather have plastic seats, the proper
atmosphere, or even the smell of excitement.’
‘The view is really much better from here.
‘But safe and sound behind the glass.’
‘Clearing out each detail.’
‘Pardon me?’
‘The immense screen has substituted the event.
It is an event we’re supposed to be viewing,
but at the same time we can see every drop
of sweat, making the actual event practically
irrelevant.’
‘A little guy vanishing into the distance.’
‘Literally and. . . ’
‘Even the brass band is quadraphonic.’
‘The detail has conquered the view.’
‘An image of the world today should only
consist of a succession and a blend
of details: images or double images that seem
to be superficially selected without any
strategic reason.’
‘Aha, a topsy-turvy world.’
‘A baroque celebration.’
‘And those huge screens make the celebration
complete?’
‘Well, they do confuse the concepts of “here” and “there.”’
‘I admit there is still a distinction between
the terms, but I can imagine even that
changing.’
‘It’s true that you can no longer draw a line
between what you see and what is actually
taking place at that very moment.’
‘Imagine the same thing happening to the
details: a happy world from which reality has
finally been banished.’
‘It would certainly be convenient; you wouldn’t
have to move, but you’d still be able to
control everything.’
‘Modern voyeurism.’
‘Exactly.’
‘Man uprooted from reality being part of a
continuous fiction.’
‘I can hardly wait.’

G.

‘The sky’s the limit.’
‘Because it looks so bright & blue today?’
‘No. I saw something on TV the other day that
fascinated me extremely.’
‘What was that?’
‘Calgary. The most advanced techniques,
ultramodern, aerodynamic, and electronic. The
image of modern sports superstars.’
‘Endless training, scientifically monitored.
The ultimate performance.’
‘The athlete as a robot, trained by machines
with sensors.’
‘1.09.14 sec. Runner-up 0.0001 sec.’
‘The only thing they can’t measure is taut
nerves, the tension of public scrutiny.’
‘Perhaps they’ll get around that snag one day.’
‘All that sophisticated gadgetry is making
it harder and harder to pinpoint number one:
he’s just one of many.’
‘A last desperate attempt to distinguish
one man from another, when distinction has
long proved to be a lost cause.’
‘Desperation justifies all means.’
‘Anyhow, I’m not interested in discussing
ethics.’
‘What fascinates me is the phenomenon itself.’
‘Speed?’
‘Ultimate height, ultimate speed.’
‘Better still, the limit itself.’
‘A limit implies an end, but once reached it
shifts again.’
‘Alas, a world without limits, though
inconceivable, would make a number of things
easier.’
‘I don’t agree. Limits change with our view
of the world. Right now the row of digits after
the decimal expands, while research into the
parts and the whole is pushing limits
further & further.’
‘Are you saying that there’s some imposed
linking of the parts and the whole, like in
a marriage of convenience?’
‘That’s the state of affairs in science. But
it’s no longer a case of either detail or total.’
‘The limit of those two terms seems to have
exceeded itself.’
‘I can almost touch the eagle.’