Materials: code, first kisses

KISS LIST is an interactive website and book created in collaboration with John West. The site charts my first kisses with everyone I’ve ever kissed. There are five sections—who, what, where, when, and why—that each cast the kisses in a different light.

KISS LIST is a project of Etc. Gallery.

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Along with the charts, the website features an essay I wrote about the process of charting my kisses.

“I didn’t start keeping a kiss list at the beginning. In fact, it took seven and half years before I wrote down everyone’s names, and another six months before I thought of it as more than just a list of experiences. It was also a list of data that, perhaps, could tell me something about myself—what I liked, or what my type was. These graphs attempt to answer those questions.

The records start with my first kiss and end when I began this project. The graphs represent my first kiss with each person I kissed, and the data included represents what for me are the essential facts that make up each experience. For the most part, no two kisses overlap. Each encounter is unique, but maybe by breaking the experiences, and those involved, into their component parts, I could find something cohesive about the people I was intimate with and uncover a pattern about myself.”

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John and I also created a book version of KISS LIST, which John designed. The book includes static images from the website, the text of the essay, a foreword by John, and a prose poem for each of the five sections.

In these poems, I attempt to chart the kisses not through the “scientific” process of creating graphs, but instead through the imagistic process of poetry.

“Tongue. Teeth. Lips (an afterthought). A nervous breath on my shoulder and small-talk in the pauses. My knee taps against hers, and my stomach leaps down into my knee. Her shoulder whispers something. I lean closer. Maybe it was her eyelashes. I tilt my head.

It takes two to join together—two people trying to crawl into each other. A meeting that’s closer than a handshake, though not by much. I have no weapons, one tongue says. My teeth are sharp, says the other. A blush. A rush. A negotiation. A face interrupts mine, and my hands rest on a familiar body. I keep my eyes open. His are closed. Kissing is not just about lips.”