So Near Yet So Far

||        The Big Kiss (2008) is a 3 hour live webcam networked art piece by Dutch Performance artist Annie Abrahams, where Annie and her co-performer are physically separated from each other and have themselves perform the act of kissing recorded separately.

 

Annie Abrahams and her co-performer sitting separately, orientated in different directions while performing. The only space where they meet in on the split screen that hosts the live webcam feed simultaneously.

 

In a interview with Randall Packer on Third Space Network’s Networked Conversations, Annie Abrahams observes that there are two main reactions to the performance: either fascination by the eroticism that can be evoked without physical interaction, or awkwardness as a bystander who is witnessing this bizarre dissected makeout session of 2 strangers. She explains that the product of this artwork is not the live performance itself, but rather the meeting with her co-host (who was a completely stranger), and the process of discussing what to do in the performance. While performing The Big Kiss, both performers had to visualise pictures in their head and ‘draw’ it out with their tongues, mimicking the action of French kissing.

 

Randall Packer interviews Annie Abrahams and dicusses about her various artworks focused on human interaction and intimacy on a digitalised platform to experiment. https://thirdspacenetwork.com/annie-abrahams/ Big Kiss discussion around 42:30 mark

Annie Abraham’s attempt to expose the ‘sloppy side’ of people (or as we call ‘unglamorous side’) in spontaneous performances like this online juxtaposes the glossed image of online personas that we present to strangers who chance upon our profiles online. In the context of love and intimacy, there are dating applications that people turn to to find love, such as Tinder, Lively and Hinge.

Tinder is a dating platform whereby people attempt to find a partner by sieving through their online profiles and pictures. Tinder is said to entertain the idea of a Snapchat-style video function.

 

The limitations of these applications are that people can only form “parasocial relationships” (Internet and Emotions by Tova Benski, 2013) with others, since the only information they have is someone’s profile page, and the only people they interact with is the other party’s online persona. They are never in touch with each other’s true personality; rather they are attracted to the illusion that someone has created of themselves in this “egalitarian cyberspace” (Love Online by Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, 2004), with all the ‘unglamourous’ sides filtered out.

 

The Big Kiss effectively draws a parallel to this social situation and presents it in a compressed, physical performance that emphasises society’s simultaneous desire and fear when it comes to physical intimacy. Perhaps more could be done to thrust the the online world into reality so that people can begin to rediscover the experience of sharing physical space and touch again, rather than being enclosed in our own “magic circles” (Benski,2013).

 

Resources:

  1. The Big Kiss (2008) by Annie Abrahams [5 minute version] https://vimeo.com/2070207
  2. Annie Abrahams – Networked Conversations https://thirdspacenetwork.com/annie-abrahams/
  3. Tinder https://tinder.com/app/login
  4. Bensky, Tova, and Eran Fisher. Internet and emotions. New York: Routledge, 2014.
  5. Ben-ZeT̤ev, Aharon, and Madiha. Love online. Lahore: Sabih Publishers.

  2 comments for “So Near Yet So Far

  1. Zhen Qi
    January 31, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    It was great that you tried to make connections to the current applications to Annie Abrahams work. Although her installation piece was rather disturbing in some sense, the use of similar concept and idea in current applications actually made me rethink about her installation in terms of the relatability and relevance to our society.

  2. February 1, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Excellent research critique! In fact, you have demonstrated an exemplary essay that is incredibly well researched and written. You are right: Annie Abrahams’s work, because it is live and on video conferencing, fully reveals the implication of distance on the acts of intimacy. This is in great contrast, as you point out, to the glossy Internet social spaces that attempt to bring people together. I am particularly pleased to see you doing original research, even going to the effort of watching my interview with Annie Abrahams. I am so pleased with this piece!!

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