in My Work, Research Critique

Research Critique: Annie Abrahams, The Big Kiss (2007)


French performance artist Annie Abrahams uses webcam technology and attempts to kiss through a video call. This is an example of an interaction occurring in a third space, as despite being present in different geographical locations, the physical boundaries collapses as the two individuals starts to feel more immersed in the act.

It brings to the question why Abrahams choose to use a kiss as the main element in the performance.  A kiss can express sentiments of love, passion, romance, sexual attraction,, sexual arousal, affection, respect, greeting, friendship, peace, and good luck, among many others. A kiss is something that is very intimate, yet, how did you feel when you watch the interaction occur in a third space?

Ulay and Abramovic performs’Breathing in, Breathing out’ (April 1977, Belgrade)

Watch a snippet of it here!

What emotions does these art performances, that does not occur in third spaces evoke in you? Especially in comparison with The Big Kiss. It seems like The Big Kiss is far less passionate and intense. It also seems to be more gestural, compared to the two examples above.

And perhaps, because touch, voice, and body signals, which are important for communication, are deprived in the machine mediated experience. This brings to the question to how intimacy is being adapted almost “shortchanged” due to the digital world we live in today.

Of course, we do not need to video call one another and perform The Big Kiss to show love. But on the other hand, we have perhaps unknowingly adapted it into various forms, like sending emojis, or simply dropping a “HPD!” message onto one’s Facebook wall. Ultimately, intimacy in a third space cannot be replaced or substituted.

So where and what are the limits of digital communication?

Machine mediated kissing in a performance = drawing with your tongue = taking pleasure, while constructing an image = a way to be superaware of the other = never totally abandoning yourself = ???????? = not at all like real kissing, it’s better! This might be a female view point. – Annie Abrahams

Like what Annie Abrahams said herself, The Big Kiss is not like a real kiss. To her, it is better due to not having the need to be physically present, which allows a closer intimacy between the two performance. And this is an advantage in her perspective.

Ultimately, different tools and platforms has its pros and cons and we need to be aware and tap on these advantages when it comes to our own artworks.