Inkjet in Plexibox
21,5 x 15,2 x 2,5 cm
From the exhibition 'So far So close' March 2020
Jan Locus 'Sony ZX60 side B'
So Far / So Close’ reflects first and foremost on close family ties, migration and loss. ‘The Distance Between Us’ is an intense film and photo series
of Jan Locus. The Brussels photographer and filmmaker received two audio cassettes from a Moroccan family in Molenbeek, a means of communication from the days when Skype and WhatsApp did not exist. The mourning song of a left behind mother, a children’s song and other recorded messages echo in desolate black and white images of Brussels. A sharp contrast with sunny Morocco. Black and white photos also show images of Casablanca, where immigrants were recruited. Sending cassette letters has something ritualistic about it. Nice how this project also conveys the magic of interpersonal rituals and relationships. ‘The Distance Between Us’ (2017) of Jan Locus was instantly awarded in the film circuit. Also, the art world was being touched by it. The sobriety of the film reinforces its intensity. Fragments of two audio cassettes received of a Moroccan family in Molenbeek resounds over gray images of Brussels. This is how they used to keep in touch with those who stayed behind in Morocco. Recording and sending audio cassettes was a good way to correspond, and a godsend for those who couldn’t read or write. Often, they are spoken and sung messages of mothers, sisters and children. A beautiful mourning song alternated with cheerful voices. The feeling that those people are very close, becomes even stronger because the click of a button or other sounds show how they are using the recorder. The noise of the often used cassette also plays a role. When it is no longer understandable, English subtitles are missing.
Spoken cassette letters were more direct, tactile and emotional. A mother in Morocco misses her son and raises a mourning song: “This day is cold, cold, oh God, bring Abdulkadir back to me … the distance between us, ajajaj”. A cheerful girl says something, there’s a sparkling quarrel, there’s a longing wish to visit sons in Belgium and it ends with a song about death. The voices can be heard in gray images of Brussels: a metro line on which guest workers were working, an apartment building with satellite dishes, the first residential blocks for immigrants in Molenbeek, bare trees near blocks of flats.
It is a chain of static images, almost filmed as a photograph. Without the street, without people, but not entirely without movement. There are birds flying around, a flickering reflection of light in a window, an approaching metro and later a departing metro. The metro rattles in the distance, a flying bird screams and sometimes other environmental sounds can be heard. Sounds of Brussels are subtly mixed with messages from Morocco. The soundtrack is always important in Jan Locus’ films.
The series of photos, also in black and white, consists of images of Molenbeek and well-chosen places in Casablanca. An abandoned car park on the coast evokes what a woman says in the film: ‘Poor me, I waited in vain for my brothers by the sea’. A different photo shows the almost empty street with the building where the Belgian coal federation opened a recruiting office in 1963. Even before Belgium signed the migration agreement with Morocco. Not long after that, mines began to close in Belgium. Optimistic prospects were short-lived. ‘The Distance Between Us’ explores a social-cultural and at the same time profoundly human history, which has merged with Belgium and contemporary Brussels. Christine Vuegen