Goethe-Institut’s digital magazine ‘Proximity and Distance’ explores these questions in Brazil, Korea, India and Germany, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, and brings on board authors and artists to engage in a cross-cultural exchange through the written word and art. Launched on 29th November 2021 as an offline event at the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan New Delhi, the project discusses the pandemic and its impact on how we, as humans, and as a society, perceived the concepts of nearness and being away, emotionally, physically, and mentally. The magazine elaborates on the global and local perspectives,
analyses social changes in society, initiates debates, and draws the outlines of a post-pandemic future. An art exhibition and an interactive pop-up installation were on display for the public to explore lockdown lessons through artworks and visual material produced for the project website.
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 come together to focus on the future, on changes ushered in by the pandemic and find answers to: 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?
Expressing on the origin of the project theme, Dr. Berthold Franke, Regional Director Goethe-Institut South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iran) says, “The COVID-19 pandemic hit the world in different waves and intensities and impelled humans and civil societies to unlearn and learn a lot in little time. The project ‘Proximity & Distance’ came to being because we too, as the Goethe-Institut, wanted to learn from our experiences with Covid.”
Elaborating, he adds, “Given that the Goethe-Institut is present in many parts of the world, there are universal parameters that exist in all cultures and act as the binding force for a multi-perspective project. We found distance and proximity to be one such fundamental parameter that enables us to understand the Covid experience, not just in one country, but across the globe. Of course, illness and time are also universal, but we decided to go with proximity and distance because it is a social as well as a cultural parameter that is also found in Korea and Brazil, albeit in different forms. And this particular contrast in cultures was an exciting departure point for us.”