empathy

“As If To Disappear Out Of View”

On the day of David Horvitz’s solo exhibition, I remember reading an undefined/untitled text on the front page of his website (the text was still there last time I checked) on the subject of distance. He approaches the topic by focusing on the impossibility of horizons, with both their literal and metaphorical implications. The text was engaging; it’s like getting a peek at the musings of a curious artist who has been writing out his thoughts on a train to an unknown location. It’s a little vague, however. And vagueness has this “push and pull” effect that creates intrigue and repulsion, depending on, of course, your tolerance and sensibility. Being tolerable and sensible, I was intrigued (especially with an exhibition title like “At Night They Leave Their Century.” So at night I left my apartment and headed to Chert to see what this vagueness was all about.

Disappointment At First Glance

The first thing I encountered as I entered the space was the exact same text about horizons I had read half an hour earlier (except this time it was printed on paper and a photograph of trees on the horizon was projected on top). I was disappointed. Not because of the display, as it mimicked the experience of staring at a computer screen quite well, but because it turned out to be the artist’s statement for this exhibition. At one particular point in the text, he mentions, “Over the past few weeks in Berlin I went on daily walks each morning. In each walk, always starting from the same location but heading in a different direction, I attempted to walk across the horizon line. This was 4.7 km away, though the actual length of each walk varied since there are no straight lines in the city. I wanted to walk the exact length of visibility from where I started. And, to just slightly cross this point. As if to disappear out of view.”

This happens to be a wonderful exercise for anyone new to a city (tourists, take note). It’s wonderful in the way one starts walking with a pre-selected notion of the horizons bordering our immediate space and, through exploration, one discovers further points of interest that will broaden the literal horizon and the understanding of one’s surroundings as well. 

chert-gallery-4One of he two slide projectors looping photographs of Horvitz’s Berlin travels. Photo: Chris Phillips

But, and here’s my disappointment, Horvitz decided to express this by documenting his walks with photographs, which he then chose to display via two looping slide projectors on separate walls of the gallery. My letdown happened on two levels. The first, which is always the easiest to get over, was choice of display: a sort of “I went here, and this is what I saw” deal. And as I looked at the slideshow of photographs, some of them capturing paths in the woods leading to unknown places while others just looking up at the sky, I could not help but to think of the other slide show that we–or the majority of us, I’d imagine–see on a daily basis: our Facebook timeline. There, people share countless photographs of the new places they’ve inhabited, the new musings they’ve encountered, and in general the new horizons they are constantly crossing.

So standing here, in the darkness of the gallery, after the bitter walk in the cold, surrounded by strangers, looking at the travels of yet another fresh new body exploring Berlin’s landscape, you can imagine my frustration at not being at home, on Facebook, looking at the exact same thing, in perhaps a more comfortable setting.