In boxing, ‘the distance’ refers to the scheduled length of a fight, during which the boxer’s aim is to remain standing. During this time, in this liminal period of in-betweenness, the fighter continuously gauges range and measures time, jostling for position in order to gain ground and soften the blows. Armenian boxing coach Giorgi Shakhsuvarian has dedicated his life to this dance of position and timing inside the ring. Ever since he left behind the Georgian city of Tbilisi when he moved to Belgium, he has primarily been teaching his skills to a young boxer, whom he is preparing to be a European champion. But the negotiation of time and distance also continues outside the ring, in the exilic experience of oscillating between there and here, between then and now, between a lost and a newly acquired home. “Will my heart be big enough to bridge the distance?”, we hear him ask while looking at the world map and using his fist as measure, as he prepares to return to his hometown after an absence of thirteen years. It is this sense of displacement, of a belonging never fully attained, that resounds in Elias Grootaers’ Inside the Distance. Spaces find themselves diffused and multiplied into patterns of lines and dots, no longer knowing centre from margin. Human figures dissolve into plays of shadows and silhouettes, where they come to waver between actual presence and virtual absence, as if the play of framing and masking, of fragmenting and multiplying, evokes a perpetual state where bodies are never really ‘at home’. Perhaps this exploration of cinematic spaces, where identity and temporality become unsettled, ultimately corresponds to the experience of what one of Giorgi’s friends describes as “floating through life”: a poetics of dislocation.
Courtisane’s closing night
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In the presence of Elias Grootaers