As Far As We Could Get
As Far As We Could Get contains a series of video chapters made in the municipality of Palembang, Indonesia and the small town of Neiva, Colombia. The two cities are exact antipodes. The geographical usage of the term antipode –designating points diametrically opposite one another on the globe–stems from the ancient belief that the other side of the earth held a kind of netherworld, where everything was inverted, causing the men who lived there to walk backwards. Ivan Argote tests this theory, surveying a pair of modern-day antipodes for his 22-minute video. Urban antipodes are rare, with only a handful of possible case studies. While physically the farthest points from one another on the globe, the two cities share a status as former colonies and occupy positions similarly peripheral to the flows of global capital and culture. The film tracks other commonalities through seven chapters, applying Borgesian taxonomies to catalogue anachronistic monuments or attitudes toward public displays of affection.
The first chapter, “Axis,” takes place on basketball courts on opposite sides of the world. (Sports are, as ever, a ready escort for global capitalism.) Each bounce of a ball traces out the single, invisible axis connecting Palembang to Neiva. In another chapter, the artist scours each of the cities for someone born on November 9, 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell. As Argote interviews each representative, it becomes clear how little bearing this seemingly earth-shattering event has had on day-to-day life in Palembang or Neiva. “The Other,” a chapter set during respective New Year’s celebrations, follows the artist onto the streets of each locale, where he taps strangers on the shoulder to wish them a joyous holiday, filming their response to his touch. Argote’s own generosity reveals itself in a particularly striking sequence within the video’s sixth chapter. ln Neiva, a folk singer answered the artist’s newspaper ad not because he was born on November 9, but because he wanted to share a love song with “the ther side of the Universe.” As the man’s voice unfurls, the screen splits into two horizontal frames. The top shows a close-up of the ground as a woman’s face slowly drops to plant a kiss on a smooth stone. The bottom image is projected upside down, so that a finger slowly sinking into a mound of sandy soil appears as if it’s spiraling upward, the knuckles meeting the unseen other’s lips as they brush the stone. It’s an exchange of intimacy, with nothing but the whole world in between. “So is this about otherness?” the narrator queries.