From Amor to Tinder
The story of Adam and Eve is the cornerstone for traditional ideas of our society. According to the American literary scholar Stephen Greenblatt, the tale of Adam and Eve is of fundamental importance to our society: ‘It deals with who we are, where we come from, why we love, why we suffer.’
At the same time, the Biblical history of creation suggests that the lone human is incomplete and only finds completion in a two-person relationship. From the perspective of evolutionary biology, the purpose of the human being is to find a partner and to proliferate. But is that still true today?
Ancient Greece is an important fountainhead of western culture. And the visual arts are filled with depictions of mythological couples. This is no surprise, because Greek myths, such as the tale of Psyche and Cupid have everything required by a compelling love story: love at first sight, chance, a jealous mother-in-law, a couple struggling to make a relationship work, a happy end.
What at first glance looks like a loving hug, is actually Venus' attempt to tie her son Amor, as he causes a lot of mischief with his arrows. What a paradoxical idea to want to tame love! And yet it is a wish that everyone knows: who does not try to hold on to love?
This painting shows Amor and his mother Venus. Venus, the goddess of beauty and erotic desire, was the most beautiful woman in the Roman gods heaven. It shows itself through different attributes: sometimes as a foam-born with shell, as in the famous painting by Sandro Botticelli, times, like here, with her attribute, the dove. The dove is a symbol of the higher love, faithfulness and peacefulness. Hence the name "lovebirds" for two lovers. The cooing and beaking is interpreted as a sign of constant affection and mating willingness.
The figures in this Spanish family portrait do not look happy. The purpose of the painting was most certainly not a demonstration of love — in all likelihood, what we are looking at here is at least an arranged marriage — but of power. Expressionless, almost bored, the family members display their prosperity and progeny. Back then just as today, wooing occurred partly on the basis of pictures: Since marriages were also arranged across national borders, the partners couldn’t expect to simply cross paths at some point. As with online dating, the potential partners were selected on the basis of small, painted portraits. To some extent, of course, these images were pimped just like photos on dating platforms.
This group portrait shows a merchant family - recognizable by the statue of Mercury, the god of merchants, right in the picture. A family of six is the exception today. Many children were not then necessarily an expression of love, but served to secure social status and succession. In addition, there were no methods of contraception at that time.
In this painting a woman is depicted in three different ways: sitting on the bed in real life, as reflection in the mirror and as a shadow. The view in the mirror remains dimly. A British study says eye contact causes discomfort as soon as it exceeds 3.3 seconds.
The Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven reports that he used the app Grindr to meet many men for sex. At the same time, he observed a variety of changes in the gay scene and in the city itself: homosexuals went out less frequently, because they could also find quick sex via the Internet. Thus bars of the LGBT scene in Amsterdam were closed. Dating apps had the effect of causing a cultural milieu that had fought for a visible place in society to disappear from view once again. In his performance Wanna Play?, Verhoeven is concerned with the visibility of intimacy in public spaces. For ten days he lived in a transparent container, chatted online with strangers, projected the anonymous chats into public view and invited his new acquaintances into the container in order to satisfy non-sexual needs.
In his painting, Gaetano Gandolfi portrays the personification of beauty with classical attributes: a young couple with a mirror that symbolizes self-knowledge or self-love. On the right in the background is a harp that refers to the fine arts and the echoing sound of music - transience is a fate that overtakes beauty too. The ideal of beauty has changed over the centuries. Sometimes female curves, sometimes slender bodies were worshiped, sometimes restrained pale skin, sometimes full hair.
The French sculptor Aristide Maillol took ten years to complete his Venus. No wonder, after all, it should represent love, erotic desire and beauty. Although she looks sensual and feminine, his Venus could not make a career as a skinny model today.
Vittoria Caldoni was portrayed by many artists because she embodied the prevailing romantic classicist ideal of beauty. She was just 13 years old on the painting. Not only since Germanys Next Top Model is looking for young models that stand for the zeitgeist.
The face of Anna Risi is one of the most famous in art history. She was considered a perfect antique beauty, and Feuerbach had done to her: He painted her about 45 times and made countless drawings of her. She was not only his muse, but also his lover. However, her love story is tragic: She first lived with a simple cobbler and children in Rome and left her family for the artist. His jealousy, however, was hard to bear, so she left him and lived with a wealthy Englishman. However, the connection did not last, she returned impoverished to Feuerbach, who rejected her, however.
For her book project Trompe l’OEil, the Turkish photographer Eylül Aslan met with twenty-five men whom she got to know on Tinder. She asked them which parts of their own male bodies they liked the most and the least. At the same time, she also asked them to evaluate her female body.
She turned the photographs into a book. Just as with the Tinder app, she printed on the right side the body parts deemed attractive and on the left the ones said to be unattractive. ‘I am in favour of a revelation and democratisation of the individual’s own body — the exact opposite of the idealised social media world. I say: “Show yourselves as you are and stay happy!”
The dutch painter Christiaen van Couwenbergh illuminates this scene with only one light and leaves the bed at the right in the dark. But the finger tip of the woman makes it clear: It goes straight to the point. An interesting detail is that in the picture (from 1632!) The initiative emanates from the woman.
Cupid's mother was Venus, his father was the god of war Mars. However, Mars was not the husband of Venus, but an infidelity from which sprang Cupid: the god of love, a bastard! Married to Venus was Vulcan, the god of fire and blacksmithing. According to legend, he was ugly and limped. No wonder that his wife is from the beautiful muscle Mars got carried away?
In this painting by Jean Baptiste Deshayes is not the obvious - the bared chest - the special, but details. Like the dog, for example: he symbolizes loyalty, and he watches the viewer -who becomes a voyeur - with appropriate vigilance. He guards innocence. At the same time castle dogs were called "Punzenlecker". Punze is a crude word for the gender of the woman. Another detail is her hands, which lie on the one hand in the crotch and on the other hand indicate the sexual act. In the past, a woman's value was measured by her innocence, that is, her virginity. Today, however, sexual experiences give a social status.
The Indian artist Indu Harikumar issued an invitation via Instagram for Indians to tell her about their Tinder experiences, which she illustrated and made public anonymously under the hashtag #100IndianTinderTales. The stories deal with one-night stands, affairs or relationships such as we know them also from analogue approaches.
The Internet has become a new place to meet, thus the Internet has joined the bar, party or grocer’s shop as a site for people to meet each other.
New technologies are changing how we court someone, but not how we love. Because our mating and reproductive behaviour is influenced by a part of the brain that developed more than four million years ago and is not being changed by a comparatively young technology, says the American anthropologist Helen Fisher.
Am Wall 207
28195 Bremen, Germany
Texts: from the booklet to the exhibition
"What is love? From Amor to Tinder"
Texts: Jasmin Mickein