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kissing studies

The Weight of a Kiss is a series of digital scans that reflect on the choreography of kissing in film, and its implications on the construction of romance. The work departs from the iconic side angle profile that has canonically captured the event of the kiss. However, this time, hurling us into the middle of this encounter to witness the moment between a lover kissing another. This voyeuristic cross-sectional angle offers rather strange and grotesque images that in their (un)desirability interrogate how we arrive at representations of romance and its ‘ideal’ subject to begin with. Analogue in their quality, these scans have a photographic texture which subtly interrogates the historically interdependent relationship between the camera and the photograph by imagining other tools which can construct a photograph, and speculate on what these tools can offer the image which a camera may not be able to; In this case, the scanner operates as a compressed lens which allows us to insert it between lovers, to catch them at the instant moment of impact (kissing). This allows us to render confrontational images which unsettle a production which has historically punctuated passion and romance in film and photography, into an uncanniness that uncomfortably shifts the spectacle of this kiss. These images have a seductive grammar that invites us to become a deeply intimate voyeur, a welcomed intruder, and eventually, an unsuspecting participant in these intimate moments. In upsetting the cinematic kiss by inserting these uncanny, humorous, and awkward interventions, we suspend the weight of a kiss in romance in pursuit of the ‘unromantic’: A confrontation of deeply vulnerable portraits of black women in intimacy which compel us to consider question the social implications of race on romantic representations. However, more pressingly, these scans reflect on how these canonical romantic productions have historically excluded the experiences of black people and positioned black women never as agents of love, but rather as radars of its violent conditions. The work operates within this racialised representational gap to reflect on how this separation of black people from love is a colonially dehumanising practice which has incited violent romantic experiences for black people. The series creates romantic portraits which centre black women as protagonists in romantic narratives. These romantic portraits are “used as a ‘humanising’ strategy working against colonial racism that rendered the Black subject as an external surface that is always fully known through the ethnographic gaze, but also disavowed their status as full human beings, creating particular narratives around Black subjects in comparison to how Black subjects see themselves in loving, being loved and as loveable” (Sharlene Khan, 2023) The work interrogates representations of romance to offer a sincere and humanising documentation of black women as romantic subjects. The Weight of a Kiss is an uncanny reflection on the experience of kissing while noting the implications of race on romantic representations. Materially, the work attempts to imagine other image-making tools.

Etching, photograveur and monotype prints


Process images 


'Kissing Studies' exhibition at David Krut Projects in Rosebank, Johannesburg. 
14 February 2024 


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