Artists create real world dating site
Artists Amy Spiers and Lara Thoms have been talking to singles from Altona to Clayton in research for their new art project ‘Lonely Hearts’ at Platform Public Contemporary Art Spaces, that opened on 2 March.
After posting a call out for participants Lara and Amy have been collaborating with a diverse range of singles to develop ‘real life’ versions of their online dating profiles. By using photography and installation instead of the usual lists of attributes, the artists hope to present a different kind of profiling in the cabinets along the Degraves Street Subway.
During their month-long exhibition, the public will be able to get in touch with the singles and potentially meet up.
Lara and Amy, both Melbourne-based visual and performance artists, have been making participatory art work for several years. They are interested in the complex conditions and contingencies required for people to meet and come together. As such Lonely Hearts is a chance to consider failed moments of connection, as well as create opportunities for new encounters. Through this project Lara and Amy also wish to dwell on the ethical and aesthetic challenges of working with people as their art form.
By expanding online dating profiles into participatory and public artworks, Lara and Amy ask if this if it is the ultimate call-out for engagement? In this case the stakes are higher than making an artwork, the invitation here is to participate in someone’s life.
In 2012, Amy Spiers is being mentored by Paul Gazzola through JUMP, the Australia Council’s national mentoring program for young and emerging artists. In Victoria, JUMP is delivered by Melbourne Fringe. www.jumpmentoring.com.au
Venue: Platform Public Contemporary Art Spaces, Degraves Street Subway, Melbourne
Dates: 2 – 30 March 2012
Opening: Friday 2 March, 6 – 8 pm
For more information email the artists via: email@example.com.
Below is the catalogue essay that accompanies the exhibition:
Lonely Hearts: Five Fragments.
by Catherine Ryan, March 2012.
To love is to try to explicate, to develop these unknown worlds that remain enveloped within the beloved. - Gilles Deleuze
Come into my world. - Kylie Minogue
I. (How) Does a Profile Work?
There are 1.5 million online dating profiles in Australia. People select elements of their lives for these profiles – what they like, what they don’t, what they’re looking for, what they just can’t stand.
What gets captured in these lists? And what slips through?
If these facts indicate important things about yourself or the person you want to love, then does including more data make the process of finding someone more accurate, less risky? Do you add more and more information so that you can be precise about just who you are, and just what your exacting standards are for the person who is going to love you?
These cabinets are also profiles. The elements in them aren’t words, but objects. It’s not just the person’s favourite activity, it’s the things they wear when they’re doing it. (Is that, perhaps, the book they read which formed their view of the environment?)
But do things give any more sense of a person than information?
II. A Lover is a Spectator.
From your bed, you can see a disparate set of objects. A framed picture. A shirt, washed and ironed, ready to be worn to work. Where you left them, where you hung them, where they’ve accumulated as you’ve gone about your day, day after day. Walk into the kitchen, walk into the living room – books on the shelf, a motivational note above the desk. Go through your daily activities. Supermarket shopping, imagining tomorrow. Make a plan for the weekend. A bike ride, a game of lawn bowls. Knick-knacks, posters, equipment, books – all strewn about the interior of your house. An agglomeration of stuff, passed through daily.
What does a lover do? When a lover is present in your life, what do they add to all these objects?
When you tell them about their history, perhaps they allow you to imagine that there is a single point of view, external to yourself, that is taking it all in. A lover remembers for you. They can be the point to which you direct your stories.
A lover forms a world. You can imagine them as a witness to your life, creating the possibility that all the events that march by, one after the other, might be observed from a single perspective. You need an imaginary point external to you. Someone, an other, you can count on to keep track of things, to give the universe meaning.
If no one knows what the privileged elements of your life are, if no one can distinguish the incidental from the sentimental, then what’s the difference between the things going out in your garbage bin and the trinkets on your shelf?
The same thing happens if you go home with someone. You wake up in their room. What do you see? A bedroom full of stuff. Neat or messy, shelves full of mementos, clean bright sheets. A scene, a background, in which the person you have selected (or who has selected you) plays out their life. It is coherent, this picture makes sense.
(After all – do we only fall in love with a person? Or is the scene of their life what dazzles us? Do we fall in love with an atmosphere, with a backdrop? An exciting suburb, the suggestion of plans being followed and put into place by someone who is, as yet, mysterious, partially concealed.)
So think about that, as you pass your eyes across these photos, these things. Someone’s gaze might fall over these objects, then one day they might end up in the room from which they came. (You might find yourself underneath that doona. You might learn the significance of that tiny squirrel.) These are real worlds.
III. Artists Visit Your House.
Why would you let them? Why did you want them to visit anyway? Why would you answer their strange request: select objects that convey who you are?
Two artists visit your house. What do they see? What happens when you try and explain yourself to an artist?
Two artists visit your house. They ask you questions. You tell them about your life. What are they listening for? What do they take in? And what are they going to do with it?
Two artists tell you, “choose some objects that represent you. Give them to us.” So you do. And then they say, “no, we want different objects.”
Why would you open yourself up to an artist? Is it a confessional?
Perhaps it’s because of what artists don’t do. They don’t set up a website database of lovers, make themselves middlemen, show you a promising glimpse of people who might love you, then charge you for the chance to talk to them.
IV. What’s a Lover For?
Why would you want a lover? Because they improve your life? Is there an empty space waiting for them amidst your routines? Or will they just muck up the order you have established, the world you have made for yourself? If you are happy, then what can a relationship add that you don’t have already?
Perhaps you desire the chance to share things that can only materialise when there are two people. But what are these things?
V. What World Does Art Make?
The objects of an interior, removed and displaced, arranged sparingly under bright lights in eleven cabinets. Household items, now behind glass, detached from their usual lifeworld (the bookshelf, the bedside table, the wall in the back room). Frozen, here they are, reverentially arranged, as if observing the rules of a rarified ikebana for domestic knick-knacks.
What are all these cabinets? A series of specimens (“woman looking for love”, “man who is ready”) with the life drained out of them.
None of the anecdotes and confidences shared between artist and participant are present here. What is excised is narrative, the story of the lives in which these objects are usually rooted.
Most of each cabinet is space. Movement, narrative, the sound of a voice: all this has been filleted out, leaving an abundance of space. In relief, out of the material of eleven lives, an artwork has been made.
Does a life become art when parts of it are cut away?
What is in the gaps between these objects?