Safe Distance: High Ground 01

“Wherever people feel safe (…) they will be indifferent.”
― Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

“A soldier wields violence and is also exposed to it; he is both an executioner and a victim. But what does he become once the very possibility of being exposed to violence is removed?”
Gregoire Chamayou, Drone Theory

Safe Distance: High Ground is based on screenshots from online videos taken by cameras mounted on US military drones and helicopters patrolling the Middle East and Afghanistan. The images have been cleared of the pilot’s information (bullet rounds, altitude etc.) which is typically displayed at the sides and corners of the image. What remains is a focus on what is taking place on the ground – and in some cases: what is just about to take place.

The series, Safe Distance, is an attempt to interpret the original footage as well as to question the position of the viewer: What is my role in the events that I so eagerly observe from a safe distance ?

Exhibition text Alkovi Gallery

The exhibition in Alkovi presents an edition of Rune Peitersen’s Safe Distance and Safe Distance: High Ground photography series’. Peitersen is an artist based in Amsterdam whose work deals with the thematics of looking in various ways: how we perceive and how we relate our own experience of the world to that of others.

Safe Distance (2014) consists of screen captures from Internet live-stream platforms where people participating in demonstrations share the material they film in real time. The aesthetisized images of Peitersen’s point out the alienated and voyeristic position of the viewer to those events that currently shake the entire global situation. Safe Distance: High Ground (2015) on the other hand recycles the live-videos captured by the drones and copters used in US military operations that have been uploaded to the Internet. In Peitersen’s screen captures, the data normally attached to the image is wiped out leaving intact only the pictorial information. Through this kind of erasing gesture the focus is again turned towards the viewer.

The Safe Distance photography series’ portray two apparently opposite agencies: the self organized movement in the streets and the systematic use of power. By presenting a selection of these two series’ in Alkovi, which as a window vitrine is a part of the public space, we want to reconsider the alleged passivity in the role of the spectator. Especially in the current image overflow, we need to remember that the viewer position is never disengaged.

Rune Peitersen