review swapper

The Kiss

In Melbourne on March 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm
Studio 18, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, 5 February 2010

COBRA, 'The Kiss' video still

Dear Rose

I have met a wonderful man. His name is Cobra. What can I say? I apologise. This will not be an art review. I hope you will not consider it an account of stalking. A fan letter perhaps. In my defence, I had considered approaching Cobra for an interview. Of getting close to him and asking earnest questions about himself and his art. But circumstance was against this. Cobra is Japanese. His English is not-so-good. My Japanese only extends to the names of certain food items; sashimi, onigiri, tamago… I am shy to boot and somewhat infatuated. All this ensures I will never ask Cobra what one may think of asking him. “Why Cobra? Why are you scared of mountains? What do you find so special about cats? Have you always wanted to be the best dancer in the world?”

I will tell you how we met. I first encountered Cobra at an exhibition opening at Gertrude St. It was hot and crowded and I was very irritable. Someone suggested I go upstairs to Studio 18. “I think you will like it,” they said. Upstairs I sat on a couch in a dark room and waited for a movie called THE KISS to begin. It began. 40 minutes later it finished. AND I HADN’T LEFT. Before me the world of Cobra had illuminated my own. Cobra’s hopes and fears. His ill-fitting suit and oversized cap. His sweet, acne-scarred cheeks. His solitary quest for love and his hard won success. I laughed. Perhaps I cried. I could almost see a bouquet of luminescent tendrils unfurl from my chest towards the screen, emoting gently. I don’t emote easily yet here I was, captured. As the credits rolled, there was spontaneous, standing applause from the half dozen people in the room. People applauding video art! Have you ever seen that happen before? I turned to beam at the surrounding audience and there was Cobra. Standing in the shadows at the back of the room. Before my shyness caught up with my heart I strode up to him and said, “I really liked your movie. Thank you very much.” Cobra graciously thanked me back and I fled.

I asked around about Cobra. I told everyone I could how much I liked his movie. I decided to write about it then puzzled how to do so. I had no idea what had touched me so. There’s a scene where Cobra has made a blue plasticine head with which to practise kissing. At one point he slowly inserts a coiled plastic antenna into its forehead while emitting a ventriloquist’s high pitched “Eeeeeeeeeeeee”. Somehow this scene makes a perfect kind of no sense. It’s hilarious and poignant. It defies any attempt at analysing its funniness or poignancy. It’s subliminal. A joke told from Cobra’s subconscious to yours, transmitted on the astral plane. I think it is better left there. I don’t really want any answers from Cobra. I cannot seem to form the questions anyway. It is much better admiring him and his work from afar. Like listening to a favourite song with inaudible lyrics. It tugs. You respond and fill in the gaps with your own personal warble. Projecting your own desires onto vacant space. Dear Cobra, I am scared of tennis balls. I too like cats. And I have always wanted to be the best keyboard player in the world.

Xx Jess Johnson

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