“Today one may complain that life has been reduced to points in a matrix of relations—cities, territories, and historical narratives prematurely refined into categories of known and unknown, real and virtual, concrete and abstract space.” At the time, we could not have imagined the mass migration into abstract space that would soon follow. Today, living through the planetary pandemic, the imperative to navigate the world and our own lives through computational tools has been radicalized to the extreme. The last months of Skyping, Zoom conferencing, and collaborative Google Docs writing make us feel we have no choice but to exhaust the planetary promise of navigational tools, refining remoteness into proximities, scaling the world of friends, colleagues, and family into the rectangular screens in front of our eyes. More than ever, a paradigm of navigation folds all social and economic activities into the domestic, the facial, the optical, demanding further reflection on the enmeshment of labor, exhaustion, and love into a techno-political website.

“Social distancing” in this context seems a double euphemism: First, for the constant interruption of face-to-face conversations by glitches, echoes, ventilation hum, or simply by headaches and sore eyes. And second, in echoing filmmaker and writer Harun Farocki’s “computer animation rules,” by using model worlds to rehearse actions in the world, social distancing becomes less of a social exercise than a technological mandate. Galleries and art institutions who still continue the high-modernist tradition may secretly rejoice when uploading exhibitions and programming to not only more cost-effective virtual platforms, but also into online spaces sanitized beyond the wildest dreams of any white cube. If before they struggled to sterilize spaces into bright white voids of absolute hypothesis and contemplation, an entire planet has now emerged from hiding, even more virtual and ripe for habitation, and with lighting already built into the screen…

 

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