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The ambivalence of the title “Relatively Romantic” sets the framework for this simultaneous building up and deconstruction of the cinematic formula for romance: the Hollywood kiss. Footage from a range of classic and historic films were archived and spliced for this work, originally created with artist Ulrike Rosenbach under the title “A Thousand Kisses”. Bruch divides them here into several framing sequences: split-second cuts make a rhythm between the kisses and a looped view of the starting up of an airplane propeller; a shadowy view of the artist in a seductive pose is satirized when he repeatedly lifts up of his shirt to reveal kissing scenes composited upon his torso. The catalogue is tallied by an on-screen counter numbering the scenes from one…to one thousand, and the effect makes us aware of both the strong abstract rhythms built into the edit and the quantifying of kisses as a formulaic convention in Hollywood cinema. And indeed, Albert Einstein interrupts the sequence at several points to remind us of the most well-known formula of the physical world: e=mc2. This equation for denoting energy as a relative equivalent of mass becomes also a reference to the energy of passion, here deductible to the single moment of Hepburn and Tracey locked in fiery embrace. But by adding Brando, Monroe, Deneuve, Gable and the hordes of other stars to the staple, Bruch’s piece becomes more a Technicolor circus where romance is subject to technique. And this is where Bruch’s real fascination lies. His collage jumps between scenes at fractions of a second, and the rhythms are orchestrated with a mechanical precision. In watching this visual catalogue, we are made voyeurs through Bruch’s perspective, reflecting the gaze of the seducers and the seduced. In one segment we see a close-up of the artist’s face, his raising eyebrows, a twitching ear—all the movements of the face to reveal the human metamorphoses through playful seduction, envy and astonishment. Bruch measures romance in all of its manifestations. Relatively speaking, the small mass of a single kiss translates into an enormous amount of energy.
(Elaine W. Ho)