William Heise’s “The Kiss," from 1896, is marketed in Edison’s film catalogue as an unforgettable film: “they get ready to kiss, begin to kiss, and kiss and kiss and kiss in a way that brings down the house every time.” A film about a kiss, a scandal for its time. This is not that film, but it's also about a kiss.
“The Kiss” is comprised of an experimental film and a photography series.
2020 | FILM | PHOTOGRAPHY | 08:50
a film by Miguel De
If we take a look at history and the way the concept of obscenity has evolved with society, we quickly understand that even though changes have happened, a crucial point has remained consistent: the notion that showing is too much, so you'd better hide it. To hide something, to merely reference or suggest it makes for a much more interesting approach, it is said, because it opens up space for interpretation and imagination, instead of the gratuity of showing. This is valid not only for what would be considered pornographic or erotic, but also for horror films, for example. The artistic creation has had to adapt to these concepts: what can an artist show and what should they hide? The limits of the acceptable have changed throughout history but there's always something just out of reach, something a bit "too much". Something obscene.
"The Kiss" wants to challenge our own concept of obscenity. By looking at Heise's "The Kiss" (also known as "The May Irwin Kiss" - 1896), a scandal for its audacity to show(!) on the screen (on/scene, as Linda Williams would put it) an intimate kiss on the lips, we can infer some conclusions on how society would view and judge such displays in art. How can we bring that experience to the contemporaneity and subvert it to make us think about our own immediate reactions?
My approach to "The Kiss" was to gather several contemporary professional pornographic films and "sanitize" them, by only showing what would be socially acceptable. Something as pure and beautiful as a kiss. A touch of love, quite literally, in a new world where that feels like a transgression of sorts. But the end result is not something traditionally pure or beautiful. Instead, the repetition and insistence of the act, the never-ending stream of lips, tongues and saliva makes for a quite uncomfortable and disturbing viewing. Those kisses, ugh, they're "too much!" They shouldn't be seen. They're "obscene!"
The question is... why?