The Presentation:

The "Me Kissing Vinoodh" photograph set consists of two digitally altered pieces by internationally renowned art/fashion photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. The set first appeared in the 1999 BitStreams exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and, to many, normalized the use of digital manipulation in exhibition photography.

The first piece in the set, entitled "Me Kissing Vinoodh (Lovingly)", is a photograph of van Lamsweerde and Matadin in the midst of a kiss, Matadin leaning into his partner whilst she passively accepts him. The backdrop is a street or an alley, and there is nothing happening in the background. The couple is centered in the shot, and acutely focused upon -- the composition is simple.

The second and generally more fascinating piece of the set is called "Me Kissing Vinoodh (Passionately)". This shot is derived from the first one, but it is a composite of alterations. First, and most obviously, Matadin is absent from the picture -- only van Lamsweerde is present. Second is that the position of van Lamsweerde is opposite what it was in the former shot; in this one, she is leaning into empty space, and instead of being to the right of the center of focus, she is to the left. Lastly, this photograph is enormous (109.75 x 198 x 2 inches over four panels, as opposed to the 17.5 x 23 inch "Me Kissing Vinoodh (Lovingly)), and it is very shallow, with no foreground and virtually no background. The result is a shot of van Lamsweerde kissing at the air, her nose and mouth contorted the way they would appear from that angle if Matadin were present. This picture was the banner image for Bitstreams when it debuted, and is often regarded as van Lamsweerde and Matadin's masterpiece to date.

Here is a link to a "Me Kissing Vinoodh" photo set display: http://www.whitecube.com/exhibitions/romance/

The Explication:

Inez van Lamsweerde said of "Me Kissing Vinoodh (Passionately)": "It was about time I took the personal route. To take something extremely personal, the absolute fear of losing someone, and blow it up to billboard sized proportions." With that understood, the purpose of this individual photograph is clear. However, there is no obvious meaning for "Me Kissing Vinoodh (Lovingly)", or for the "Me Kissing Vinoodh" set. My proposal for these purposes is as follows:

1. The key to the meaning of the set is in the difference between the parenthetical titles of the individual pieces within the set.
2. The difference between doing something "lovingly" and "passionately" is that the former recognizes the expression of emotion whereas the latter recognizes sacrifice.
3. In the photograph in which Matadin is present, there is aesthetic beauty, whereas his absence in the other photograph is defiling.
4. Therefore, it follows that sacrifice is defiling, whereas expression is aesthetic.
5. The difference between sacrifice and expression is that expression is therapeutic whereas sacrifice is only indirectly constructive to the self.
6. Therefore, it follows that the purpose of the "Me Kissing Vinoodh" photographic set is to recognize that immediate personal benefit is aesthetic whereas intention is not.

Pretty tautological, right? Well, I think that tautology is essential to good art, because it makes the importance of the art the understanding of how it was created, as opposed to solely what is in its medium terminally. If the method of creation is unimportant in art, we should just forget about everything Pablo Picasso ever painted. But that's just my opinion.

The References:

1) http://web.mit.edu/21w.784/www/BD%20Supplementals/Materials/UnitOne/inez%20chat.pdf
2) http://www.whitecube.com/exhibitions/romance/

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