“Knife Kiss” is zoom-in shot of the cutting edge of my kitchen knife as “seen” through a scanning electron microscope. The video is part of over a decade- long series of works (including installation, video, sculpture, sound, photography and wood block prints) where I liken the work of knives to the work of words. My interest in cutlery was an effort to reign in my collecting of hand tools like forceps, cobbler’s bunion stretchers, wick snippers, etc. by focusing on the ur-hand tool, knives. The more I studied their use, anatomy and manufacture, the more they appeared like words and language with their function of delineating, cutting, processing, separation and difference.
The scanning electron microscope works by focusing a beam of electrons onto an object, and collecting those electrons as they bounce off the object. The SEM never “sees” the object directly in an optical sense; rather it “feels” the object with electrons. The various distances that the electrons travel from the peaks and valleys of an object’s surface are then translated electronically into varying degrees of lightness or darkness. The image displayed on the cathode ray tube is a translation of touch and distance.
Knife Kiss’ single point perspective does not promise a kind of Renaissance mastery of the visual field, but suggests what psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan called “the fantasy of the body in bits and pieces,” a condition of dissolution and fragmentation that results from the temporary fantasy of mastery, control and perfection. Knife Kiss points to the intimacy of the electron’s touch, and the anxiety-producing prospect of the viewer’s touch; the condition of intimacy and knowing.