Proximity and Distance

Illustration: Proximity and Distance Photo (detail): © Nadine Shaabana

Will wedding receptions in India be limited from now on to 10 guests instead of 1000? Will the elbow bump replace cheek-kissing as the standard greeting in Brazil? Is the private sphere being dragged into the public in Korea or vice versa? Will FFP2 face masks become a natural matter of course in everyday shopping and train travel in Germany? How do you maintain social distancing in mega-cities like Seoul, Delhi or Sao Paulo when four generations live in 12 square meters?

In ways we never imagined a virus now compels the world to keep its distance and regulates the closeness we are allowed to have with others. What happens with us when cultural practices of proximity are so fundamentally questioned? Which forms of distancing has the pandemic required in different social systems? Will these changes have long lasting effects on us?
The Goethe-Institut aims to explore these questions in Brazil, Korea, India and Germany. Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, authors and artists from these four countries will be engaging in a cross-cultural exchange on the subject of Proximity and Distance, asking: “What is next? What is here to stay? What is gone?”. They will be joined by four experts: Korean philosophy professor Kwang Sun Joo from Busan, Brazilian artist Rosana Paulino from São Paulo, German sociologist Jan Paul Heisig from Berlin, and Indian author and filmmaker Paromita Vohra from Mumbai.
The focus will be on the future, on changes ushered in by the pandemic: How close to others can we be, and how close do we want to be? How important is physical closeness really and what other forms of proximity are conceivable? How much social distancing is to be expected in the post-pandemic age? Our experts, authors and artists will point out global and local perspectives, analyse social changes in society, initiate debates and draw the outlines of a post-pandemic future.
Almost all cultural and social phenomena can be considered and ordered in terms of proximity and distance. This dialectic arises from the pandemic experience: Infections require closeness and human contact, the survival of humans as social beings and persons in need of contact with others require new forms of social distancing. The pandemic has cast a revealing light on cultural phenomena of proximity and distance and is now really putting them to the test.