Kiss Me Cali
This project took me to Cali, Colombia, where I lived for two weeks in an incredible motel called Kiss Me. Kiss Me, Cali’s largest and most popular love motel, has more than 180 rooms, each one with a different theme.
Although I personally would not get sexually excited by looking at planes crashing into the twin towers and the life-size figures of Bush and Osama bin Laden standing right next to the bed, or by the relief image of Hitler or a scale model of a Volkswagen beetle, I can understand the attraction of spending a few hours of pleasure in an igloo or in the tropical room on a bed under a palm tree. This is what makes Kiss Me so special, that the rooms are filled not with erotic but instead exotic images, images designed to expand the horizon of the local, mostly working-class clients with objects and images of cultures and cities from all over the world.
Being that there is so many paintings, sculptures and objects all around the rooms, if it weren’t for the poles, sex shop, porn channels on the TV, and the hot tubs and saunas, I could have sworn I was living in a folk art museum.
In the end, though, people come to Kiss Me not to admire the art but to indulge in sexual fantasies, which is why many of the rooms are equipped with “love machines” in the form of an Incan emperor, a gorilla or Fidel Castro upon which the woman sits with her legs spread as the man penetrates her standing up; swings with stirrups to lift butts up into the air; love roulettes that you spin to decide which position to assume next; and condoms donated by the hotel to ensure a healthy experience. Prostitution is legal in Cali but Kiss Me doesn’t cater to prostitution, instead it welcomes couples and lovers of all sexes, races, ages, social classes and gender combinations and numbers (up to six can fit in a suite) with very affordable prices.
While I was there, I invited twelve women from all walks of life into the hotel and took portraits of them in different rooms. The only instructions I gave the women were to imagine that they were there with a lover. The women chose the room they wanted to be shot in, the clothes they wore, and even the position they assumed in front of my camera. In that way, I feel as if I got an authentic glimpse of some of what was going on behind all the closed doors in my two-week stay in Motel Kiss Me.
Kurt Hollander is a writer, photographer and filmmaker. Originally from New York City, he lived in Mexico City for over 20 years and has been living in Cali, Colombia for the past seven years. He has written an autobiographical study of sex in Cali entitled The Joyous Life, and has a huge photography archive entitled The Architecture of Sex, both of which he is looking to publish as books.