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A Kiss on the Eye

. 2 min read
Janine Antoni, Mortar and Pestle (1999)

On one of my meanderings around the web I came across this photo by Janine Antoni entitled Mortar and Pessle. It reminded me of an essay by Jacques Derrida on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy (Paragraph, 16:2, 1993, p. 122-57), which he later expanded into a book, On Touching. Jean-Luc Nancy (Stanford University Press, 2005).

In this essay Derrida meditates on the sense of touch, on (a) touch as the place where self and other touch and on the reversibility of touch. When one touches one also always touches oneself. Derrida being Derrida the text meanders in all directions touching upon the work of Aristotle, Husserl, Heidegger, the New Testament and Levinas’s theory of the caress, all the while encircling and illuminating the work of Jean-Luc Nancy.

Derrida begins his essay with a question that, one day, yes one day, took hold of him: "When our eyes touch, is it day or night?" Derrida continues by expanding upon the notion of the eyes touching upon something and the exchange of looks that is the touching of eyes.

When I first read this sentence my own thoughts instantly took off in a different direction. I took it literally and wondered what it is like for the eyes to touch. You can touch another person anywhere with your hands, your fingers, your mouth or any other external body part. You can kiss someone on the eye, as in the photo by Janine Antoni, but what about two eyes touching? The thought alone strikes me as eerie.

Update 9 July 2010: I received an email from Casilda Sanchez, a Spanish artist, who drew my attention to a recent video project she did, entitled as inside as the eye can see (2009) in which two eyes approach each other, the eyelashes intertwining. It is a fascinating video, at once eerie and romantic. In the online excerpt the eyeballs don't touch though.

Maintaining this blog takes quite a bit of time and I often wonder why I'm doing it. Well this is why. Every now and then visitors to the site point me towards interesting music, films, articles, books, works of art and so on, which I wouldn't have discovered otherwise.

J. Hillis Miller (2005), What Is a Kiss? Isabel's Moments of Decision, Critical Inquiry 31.