‘The Distance Between Us’ takes its starting point in some audio cassettes artist and photographer Jan Locus received from a Moroccan family in Molenbeek a few years ago. Probably going back to the early 1980s, the cassettes contain an oral correspondence between families in Brussels and Morocco.
These anonymous audio letters bear witness to the pain of those who stayed at home. The mother for example wonders whether she will ever see her sons again. Will they manage in that faraway city? Will they ever return to their home country and native soil? The emotionally charged conversations alternate with religious chants, children singing songs, stories about exchanging money or problems with visas and passports.
Locus superimposes this found footage over images he shot himself of council houses in Brussels (for example of the Logements Molenbeekois, a council estate well-known to the first generation of Moroccan immigrants), or of the first Brussels underground lines (mostly built by immigrant workers). Because the tapes were used several times, unrecognizable sound fragments are audible through the conversations. The noise and the sounds of manipulating the cassette recorder, too, are part of the soundtrack.
‘The Distance Between Us’ reads like a dialogue between communities from East and West and between junctures in time—the present and an uncertain past. The work is a haunted audiovisual mantra. Seemingly composed of echoes from what was, it bears witness to things that are still very tangible in the streets of the Belgian capital.