Oral Fixation, 2018–2023
Daniel Mudie Cunningham, Oral Fixation, 2023
Why we “Say Cheese” for the camera harks back to mid-20th century technological developments in photography that created a mass consumer market for easy-to-use cameras. Led by Kodak, this newly democratised photo industry constructed happiness and leisure in visual culture through the snapshot.

The smiling mouth also parallels rapid modern-day developments in orthodontics that peaked in the 1990s. It was early in this decade that Daniel Mudie Cunningham, as a teenager, commenced orthodontic work to correct a narrow top palette and buck teeth. Recently, Cunningham discovered in his personal archive a set of seven slide photographs taken by the orthodontist prior to treatment in the early 1990s. A smile in the making or mugshots for the mouth, this sequence has been repurposed as the series Oral Fixation

Printed on metallic gloss paper and acrylic face-mounted to amplify their glisten and gloss, Oral Fixation reads as a hybrid of school portraiture and dental advertising. Perverse and abject, they depict a vulnerable pubescent boy whose reluctant smile is ruptured by shots of his objectified, gaping mouth. The threshold between the body’s surface and interiority is luridly exposed through surgical photography that riffs on advertising conventions when repurposed as art. 

Displayed alongside the photographs is the video montage Days of the Teeth, absurdly referencing the ubiquity of the smile in celebrity and cinema contexts. Days of the Teeth documents a daily Instagram performance that marks the days of the week via a cast of smiling celebrities and their white teeth. This absurdist project commenced on Tuesday 9 January 2018, when Cunningham posted a picture of Hugh Grant to his Instagram story. He defaced Grant's white-toothed smile with the word TUESDAY in caps lock. This action was repeated daily with a different smiling celebrity until 8 January 2019 after clocking a year’s worth of posts.

Saying 'cheese' without saying it is what Oral Fixation is fixated on.

Oral Fixation, 2023
Pigment prints on metallic gloss paper
7 parts, 35 x 22.5 cm each (4 parts); 35 x 52.5 cm each (3 parts)
Edition 3 + 1 AP

Days of the Teeth, 20182019
HD video, 0:30 sec loop

10kg Laughs, 2023
Lolly teeth installation
Solo exhibitions:
Oral Fixation, Schmick Contemporary, 2023