"breathe in" and why all my videos end with two women kissing
ASHA SANTEE. we've performed on some of the same stages, had a show together, i've bought some of her note2self art things and clothes. most folks in dc know her. she's a master drummer, an incredible artist, and also a sincerely nice person. i've met asha santee before. HOWEVER. I only recently got to hear her sing, and when i heard her, i stood up out of my chair, squinted my eyes and probably also gasped in disbelief. when.what.why.HOW can someone be so good at so many things, and ALSO have a throw-your-panties-at-the-stage-type singing voice? i still can't answer this question. butwhatever. it was beautiful. somehow, shortly after that night, i had the opportunity to write a song and sing with her.
asha and i wrote and recorded "breathe in" over the course of a week, and once we finished our draft, we started planning a visual piece for the song. one element of the piece would be sort of documentary images of us writing. my good friend mark moore shot us as we talked about the song, worked on a bassline, and sang together.
the second element of the piece would be a more symbolic visual representation of the story in the song. if you haven't heard it, "breathe in" is what someone might call gaybie making music. a slow jam. as we discussed the video, we came to the obvious conclusion: it has to end in a kiss. there was no avoiding that fact. it was the only way. but. i hesitated. this felt like deja vu.
i thought of all the previous silly music video/short film projects i've done that ALSo end with two women kissing: earl grey, from scratch, simmer slow, against the wall, cartoon girl, faded, sometimes (claymation women kissing, but still), go harder, and esu. all of these projects end in two women kissing, and now another.
am i an incredibly UNcreative writer? out of ideas? or am i just looking for an excuse to be creepy and have girls kiss me and each other on camera? maybe all of those things are true. but i'd like to have a better excuse. so here.
in the context of the world and its media, i am hungry. reading love, sex, and life through the experiences of fictional, white, hetero humans can be moving, but for me, it's at a distance. bell hooks' concept of this "oppositional gaze" comes to mind.
*side note: everybody doesn't love theory, i personally don't, but oppositional gaze is a good essay to read, and reread. but if you never did, for me, the concept of the oppositional gaze discribes the experience for black folks (and women specifically) watching films that are almost always written and shot from the perspective of white men. rather than drifting into the fantasy of the film-we see with a critical eye. "When most black people in the united stated first had the opportunity to look at film and television, they did so fully aware that mass media was a system of knowledge and power reproducing and maintaining white supremacy."
so when i watch most films, i do so with a side eye. only let go so much. not on purpose, necessarily. it just becomes an itching and waiting for something to make me feel shitty because i can't fully identify with the subjects, and these stories rarely imagine blackness as a complex identity, (if at all). so, i look for new images of black folks, of queer women of color. i look for imagination. works that make me excited to be me, and to be an artist. and! i look for kissing. so when i can't find it, i write it. that's that.
when a.o. and i shot "against the wall", i sat down at my computer and edited the piece in an hour. i was pressed. this isn't what you see in movies and tv. This is isn't me imagining love through translation. every time i watched it, i felt sooomany good things. it isn't just about being turned on, though that is beautiful. it's about experiencing love and sex and life in a context that makes me excited about my real love, sex, and life. so why kissing? maybe because it's the simplest visual representation of the love songs i tend to write. don't know.
today. it's a rainy saturday. unusually cool for a DC summer. i'm sipping earl grey with honey and cream, calm and excited to complete this project. i just finished the final edits on the song, and i spoke with asha about the piece. the process of writing, and composing the elements to "breathe in" was long and frustrating at times-but i have more respect and admiration for asha than ever. she is a true artist and i'm SO excited to see what she does with her incredible voice in the future.
so. i had the chance to take part in a beautiful collaboration, the fruits and flowers of our labor are in bloom, and i am happily exhausted. for now, i'm that girl who writes love songs, and makes tiny videos with women kissing women. and i'm ok with that.