The Kiss

By Tatiana Mesa Paján

The Writing of a Glimpse

. . .
‘The Kiss’ is the first Chapter of an artist book, The Writing of the Glimpse. I am a processual artist using creative writing to document performance art. I work with everyday life’s poetic gestures.

The Kiss is also a performance, a repeated gesture done since 1999 to the Present, where I kiss statues in public and private places. The experience surrounding the kissing statues is written, turning into the performance’s documentation.

The text is presented in traditional Printmaking-Woodcut, as a Revival strategy. The book talks about gestures that don’t belong exclusively to our present because they have surrounded every person’s story since the dawn of time, such as kissing. The use of an ancient language such as woodcut adds a temporality.

Timelessness is reinforced by the image treatment (cutline) and the typography chosen, recreating book illustrations and text from the 1900s or older.

I am not trying to create an apocryphal object, a series of pages that would deceive the eye and pass as original. Instead, I accept the spuriousness of creativity in its role played in our memory.

Chapter 1 

A KISS. To understand a kiss, I start by describing it and realize that putting a name to its context or sensation is not enough. It is hard – a kiss has no history because it belongs to an instant. The past life of a kiss is unobtainable and cannot even be evoked. I surrender to the mystery, giving up on my query.

Quitting creates a feeling of emptiness and causes me vertigo. It is scary to not understand such a simple gesture that has always been with me. It is even more frightening how unanswered questions make the act of kissing strange to me. To fill this poetic void, I let my mind drift and allow myself thinking about a kiss again.

. . .

A kiss has not a body but an essence that can beholden – maybe because of the repeated gesture of taking an imaginary kiss and throwing it to someone.

A kiss appears to be something tangible, and this idea made me look for answers to questions like what is the material of a kiss, what is its weight, size, does it have any stamina? What comprises its inertia?

. . .

A kiss conceals itself, hidden behind contexts, chemistry and personal histories. Initially, the nature of the kiss reminds me of a voice – I listen to its sound, try to remember it immediately, and ultimately fall short of capturing it.

Perhaps certain things were not made to be remembered, and our voice and a kiss share that fate. Memory can only reach the realm of living things, including the past ones. It makes me think that there is more significance placed on us than to be alive, and we are more layered than our appearance.

Some layers belong to life and can be clung to through memory. Others do not belong to life, and it would be redundant to describe them because they are intangible. Moreover, there are some just in between, like portals.

A Kiss, like a voice, is at the level in between the life and the mystery. By trying to meet the present moment of a Kiss, I kissed my palm and stopped breathing. I tried again and confirmed that there is a rhythm that is slightly stopped by the gesture of kissing – breathing – this consented suppression overwhelms me. Kissing and breathing evade each other as if they could not share the same moment.

To compare the breathlessness of kissing with the urgency of breathing is absurd, but it is appealing to realize that every time we have kissed, we have chosen to kiss over to breathe.

The enigma of a kiss rests its weight on the mystery of life.

. . .

The most potent kiss disguises itself as small. Forgotten, the same kiss reborn every day, repeating itself. A gentle touch made of essential things, by those who were always there for me. It is a love without which I do not recognize myself. A moment shared with the important people in my life, a proved touch.

Describing its places hides its immensity – among kitchens, tables, entry doors, ordinary outdoors. Its birth cannot be remembered because its nature is to go unnoticed. Essential kisses that do not interrupt me, instead making room for my beloved ones, allowing me to enjoy the little things. Kisses that were never just one, becoming a buzzing crowd kind of kisses.

It takes on many names – Good Mornings, Breakfasts, Take Cares, Welcomes, Arrive Wells, See You Soons, You Are All my Worlds, Goodnights, Farewells. Transparent, delicate, it is still holding indelibly onto my forehead, cheek or lips, shielding me with the reminder that I was accompanied.

The wicked kiss is like an order given, an authoritarian call of the body. A captain who drags me to a battlefield and whose leadership I choose to follow or not.

First, it is the coveted jewel made for flashy show but as a cheap truth rashly turns into an ordinary substance. Its ephemeral intensity can erase my present, losing myself for a moment, but it disappears too quickly. A kiss of vanity born from this world, fitting in one hand and handled by pure will.

Anticipated collective memories create its set design. A second-hand kiss borrowed from others – once lost, it wouldn’t even be searched for or mourned, just substituted. A kiss of open eyes that disappears on its objectivation.

After its brief moment of flaunting, I cannot feel it because I am dissecting, analyzing and evaluating it. Prompting myself to close the eyes, I am still watching me in the act of kissing or being kissed. Touch where I am not giving, just wanting to receive.

The surprisingly unwanted kiss is an embodiment of the bizarre – its life is so concise compared to the speed of language to ask questions and find answers that the experience will end before I understand its rhetoric.

This approach is an error, another obstruction to the senses. Not realizing the unfulfilled expectations, the kiss will be found merely guilty of not meeting love. A place of passage, from which we move away without memory of desire. 

Two different kisses placed as two mountains, a rift valley separating them. In between the hills, the open space is still a question mark.

There is so much to say, remember or anticipate about kissing. To organize the chaos, I start listing the criteria for the collection and in Paul Valery’s words –

1, “A strange organized disorder spreads out before me.”

. . .  I create 5 categories – Places, Sensations, Rhetorical, Fears and Sublime of a Kiss. I set up time, knowing about the infinity of a collection, and after one hour end up with 107 ideas, 107 empty cabinets able to be filled with curiosities, memories or histories.


About the Kiss and its Places
  1. The Kiss in a Stream
  2. The Kiss in a Battle
  3. The Kiss in Heaven
  4. The Kiss from the Day Before
  5. The Kiss in the Shadow
  6. The Kiss on the Foot
  7. The Kiss hid in a Sarcophagus
  8. The Kiss from Towns and Cities.
  9. The Kiss in the Watery Mirror
  10. The Kiss of a Bridge
  11. The Kiss Under a Hat
  12. The Kiss On the Lips
  13. The Kiss in the Airport
  14. The Kiss in the Stone
  15. The Kiss in the Garden
  16. The Kiss in the Dessert
  17. The Kiss in your Fragrance
  18. The Kiss in the Breeze
  19. The Kiss on the Neck
  20. The Kiss Among Berries
  21. The Kiss at Home
  22. The Kiss in the Backyard 
  23. The Kiss wrote in a Pocketbook 
  24. The Kiss in a Castle 
  25. The Kiss in Wrestling
  26. The Kiss in a Theater
  27. The Kiss in Our Old Bench
  28. The Kiss on The Forehead
  29. The Kiss On The Hand
  30. The Kiss Under Mistletoe (SK)
  31. The Kiss under God’s Eye (like in a church/wedding ceremony!) (SK)


About the Kiss and its Sensations

32. The Kiss from Pleasure
33. The Shaking Kiss
34. The Kiss that Tastes like Soft Liquor
35. The Bitter Kiss
36. The Cold Kiss
37. The Kiss that Smells like Mint Gum
38. The Kiss with Ocean Taste
39. The Salty Kiss
40. The Kiss that Smells like Tobacco. 
41. The Spicy Jalapeño Kiss
42. The Numbing Kiss
43. The Kiss of Closed Eyes


About The Kiss and its Rhetoric

44. The Kiss as a Form
45. The Anonymous Kiss
46. The Kiss and its Description
47. The Kiss Lost
48. The Potentially Endless Kiss
49. The Stored Kiss
50. The Written Kiss
51. The Slept Kiss
52. The Kiss as a Mirror
53. The Slippery Kiss
54. The Thousand Kisses
55. The Kiss as a Narrow
56. The Double-Named Kiss
57. The Kiss of Intermediate Age
58. The Kiss as a River
59. The Kiss as an Island
60. The Kiss as a Bird
61. The Kiss as a Lion
62. The Kiss as a Window
63. The Kiss as a Collection
64. The Kiss as a Tool
65. The Kiss as a Little Treasure
66. The Framed Kiss
67. The Kiss as a Visitor
68. The Dread Kiss

About the Kiss and its Fears

69. The Kiss as a Shield
70. The Ineffable Kiss
71. The Demons’ Kiss
72. The Kiss Given Out Of Fear
73. The Kiss That Is Still Broken
74. The Kiss of Staring Eyes
75. The Kiss of Lie
76. The Never Chosen Kiss
77. The Kiss of Sadness
78. The Caught Kiss
79. The Witch’s Kiss
80. The Unrequited Kiss
81. The Kiss of Death
82. The Last Kiss
83. The Kiss on Sale
84. The Inexperienced Kiss
85. The Kiss of a Soldier to his Widow
86. The Fallen Kiss Inside Dewdrops’ Tequila
87. The Rape Kiss
88. The Coward fearing a Kiss
89. The Kiss of an Actor
90. The Rejected Kiss
91. The Forbidden Kiss
92. The Orderly Kiss
93. The Kiss of Shame
94. The Kiss of Judas
95. The Kiss that Ends Up Tasting a Tear


About the Kiss and its Sublime

96.  The Kiss of God
97.  The Kiss of Love
98.  The Kiss of Beauty
99.  The First Kiss
100. The Filial Kiss
101. The Virgin Kiss
102. The Lovers’ Kiss
103. The Romantic Kiss
104. The Beginner’s Kiss
105. The Stolen Kiss
106. The Passionate Kiss
107. The Perfect Kiss


Having all possible kisses cataloged and framed, essentially recreating those antique cabinets of curiosity, inspires me. I cannot help the need for owning things, my desperate attempt to have control over my memories. . .

I feel framing a kiss seems like a morbid idea, akin to hanging a taxidermic deer head. 


The deer head is not the animal – the Hunter can possess its head but has never met the beast. The past life of the hunted is a mystery for the Hunter, who cannot feel the forest like the doe did.

The head is the empty trophy that makes access to the jewel of life impossible. The gift of smelling the grass, of having a heart beeping with anxiety, the strength, the run, the cold, the escape, the hiding, the fear. . .

The nimrod shows up his stupid power that always ends up eliminating the object of desire. . .  The Hunter, as a collector, loses to the impossibility of his goal – to own the wild. He accepts a lie to hide the explicit horror, embracing the worthiness of killing what is appealing to him. 

The head on the wall was turned into an environment that embodies a life from the woods. For him, that should be enough evidence of his past victory. But the reality of the deer collapses because its mystery cannot be possessed – in the same way, the existence of a Kiss cannot be documented. 

The picture, the note about a Kiss, or bring it back through orality is not the Kiss – nevertheless it invokes other things that the Kiss was related to. An evoked Kiss is the trigger for memories – the Kiss still elusive, but the mindset from the past is recreated.

The prompt to fill the gap between the most and the least vital Kiss is just an excuse. I recognized that the ones I picked are entirely personal, and it should be different for everybody, changing in each life moment.

It makes me want to grasp other people’s wonderings, and I trespass toward the ubiquity of the website leaping into the void.
. . .

These are the first ten questions showed by ‘People also ask’

  1. What does a kiss mean?
  2. Why do we kiss? 
  3. What is a passionate kiss? 
  4. What is the definition of a first kiss?
  5. Why do people kiss with their eyes closed?
  6. Why do we kiss under mistletoe? 
  7. Can you taste someone’s breath while kissing?
  8. What is an Eskimo kiss?
  9. What are the different types of kisses?
  10. How do you kiss romantically? 


I can relate to all these wonderings, I feel like I am reading a standard reference frame. Yet, I couldn’t find a final answer.

The Kiss always evades the center of the response, maintaining concealment while hovering beyond the margin, redirecting us to other topics that supposedly surround it.

After going through lengthy analyses, I must stop, again and again, realizing that the Kiss has escaped – and one more time, we fall talking about something else. 

. . .
However, the memories of kissing family, friends, statues, reflections, lovers and hands, still understand, or prove their reality is irrelevant. . .

I acknowledge I have been kissed when I have been afraid of darkness, or when I’ve been sick. I kissed someone when that person asked me to or recognized that person in need of love. I kissed friends every day in my life. I kissed my reflection in the mirror. Kiss of solitude, control and rehearse.

I have been the faithful girlfriend intimidated by someone – and I decided to kiss statues instead of kissing him. Running away from betrayal and then waiting to be noticed and continuing the gesture because I felt in love with it.

It is so appealing to kiss a face that a sculptor dreamed a long time ago or steal a kiss to a statue protected in a museum. I have disguised my fear and confusion about kissing, creating art.

The Kiss escapes language, like a foreign companion who insists on staying anonymous, without leaving us – nevertheless, I hope to always be followed by that stranger.

. . .

Words and Visuals by Tatiana Mesa Paján
with thanks to text editor SK West
. . .

You can explore the work of Tatiana Mesa Paján here



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