The Two-Word Poem

Mia Florentine Weiss – Love/Hate

By Google Arts & Culture

Words by Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Lüdeking

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

German artist Mia Florentine Weiss created an ambigrammatic sculpture which can be either read as Love or Hate depending on which side it is looked at. Learn more about the artist's sculpture in an editorial written by Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Lüdeking (Berlin University of the Arts).

Explore the artwork in 3D and Augmented Reality here (Original Version), here (Glass) and here (Brandenburg Gate). 

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

International artist Mia Florentine Weiss lives and works in the conflicted world of Goethe's Faust and the ambivalence of opposing feelings. Her art is based on the balancing act between pairs of complementary opposites: 

The push and pull between obedience and rebellion, calm and panic, helplessness and proactiveness, creation and acceptance, reality and dreams, light and shadow, life and death, love and hate. This duality inspired the Berlin-based artist to create an ambigram back in 1999, which was turned into a sculpture and the first of its kind worldwide: LOVE HATE! 

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

We know all too well that love and hate are closely linked. Why that is and what that means, however, is not immediately clear. In cases where intuition prevails with no rational explanation, artistic minds typically tend to give the problem a suitable form first. So the irritating reversal from love to hate led the artist to set out the written forms of the words "Love" and "Hate" in such a way that each of them appears as a reflection of the other.

A difficult endeavor, as some of the shapes of the letters in both words differ greatly. After countless attempts inspired by all possible iterations, Mia Florentine Weiss finally managed to create a continuous line.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

It is truly impressive that we can recognize the words "Love" and "Hate" in this continuous line with no major issue—the way in which the individual letters are written is sometimes far removed from typical and standard writing styles.

The fact that both words can be universally read may seem trivial and hardly worthy of mention. However, it is fundamental for understanding this work. The calligraphic discovery has had an affinity for attracting huge amounts of publicity from the very beginning. It can and must escape the hermetic environment in which it was created. It cannot be hidden away in the exclusive confines of an art gallery. It wants to be out in the world where we find it today. Only there does it make its impact.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

This could be observed for the first time in 2015, when a three-metre-tall steel version of the lettering was erected in front of the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt am Main. The work could be visited at all times by anyone who wanted to see it, with no entry fee and no limitations due to restricted opening hours. It was only under these conditions that the work became what it still is today: a catalyst for public reactions.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

The work passed the initial test with its opening debut in Frankfurt. It could even be said that it toured the globe, as it was now accessible and available to the whole world—at least virtually—on the Internet. The work only appeared again in its material form in autumn 2018, when two physically identical versions were set up to the north and south of the Siegestor in Munich. Here it yet again proved to be a huge "Instagram hit."  Due to the work's popularity, the sculpture was built in numerous other locations, including in Brussels and Wrocław, in Munich, Goslar, Moscow and Prague, on Arcachon beach, and in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Love and hate are phenomena. You can find them everywhere you look. For Mia Florentine Weiss, her preoccupation with the relationship between love and hate inevitably stemmed from her investigation into complementary opposites wrestling exclusively with one another. But in the end, the result was something universal and abstract. The work accordingly takes on a form that cannot be any more general or more abstract. No story is told. No image is shown. Not even a phrase is spoken. All we see is one word—a narrative that anyone can associate with.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture (3D Preview)

But you would be right to argue here that precisely what's so special about this sculpture is that there is not just one word visible but two, in multiple dimensions. This is undoubtedly true. On the other hand, note that you never see both words at the same time. In fact, you only ever see one of the two words: either "Love" or "Hate." And both words, united here by one single continuous line, are in no way equal—the term "Love" undeniably takes full priority.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture (3D Preview)

The reason for this is easy to see: love is something we all yearn for. Hate, in contrast, is something we would prefer to be without. It comes as no surprise that love, not hate, is always sung about in pop music. The word "love" has appeared in song titles since records began, being the most used word by far. But love was already being depicted 50 times more often than hate in emblem books of the Baroque period.

Cupid as Victor (around 1601) by CaravaggioGemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Those in love feel irresistibly drawn to one—and typically only one—person. This feeling is often so strong that everything else seems irrelevant. Omnia vincit amor. Caravaggio spread this message in an allegorical painting that can be viewed today in the Berlin Gemäldegalerie. 

The son of the goddess of love Venus, named Amor or Cupid by the Romans, is shown here as an adolescent street urchin in a provocative pose. At his feet lay notations and musical instruments, as well as a pair of compasses and a straight edge, but also pieces of a suit of armor. The boy, who holds in his right hand the arrows which he shoots into the hearts of men to awaken their desire, not only triumphs over the liberal arts but the art of war as well. The phrase "Make love not war" already held true in 1602. 

Empedocles, standing frontally with his head turned in three-quarter view, directs his gaze toward a flame (the crater of Mount Aetna?) emerging from a horizontal ground line, a walking stick leans toward the right margin (ca. 1545–63) by René Boyvin|Rosso FiorentinoThe Metropolitan Museum of Art

In addition to its individual-emotional and social-ethical meanings, the term "love" has yet another use which should be mentioned—one that could be deemed ontological. 2,500 years ago, Empedocles developed the theory that our cosmos consists of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. And everything is created and maintained by just two opposing forces: attraction and repulsion. 

Empedocles named these forces φιλότης (philótēs) and νεῖκος (neíkos). In Ancient Greek, these two expressions are used to mean harmony and strife, friendship and hostility, love and hate. 

By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

This expands the conflict between love and hate that we are all first familiar with from the human relationships we experience into a universal constellation of forces binding the whole universe together at its core. It is amazing how much those speculations from ancient times still resonate in current mechanics and modern nuclear physics. 

Einstein himself said the following about love: "This force explains everything and gives meaning to life. It is the invisible force that we have ignored for too long. Maybe because we are afraid of love because it is the only energy in the universe that man has not learned to drive at will."

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture (3D Preview)

What we can learn from this brief overview of the history of the term is obvious. Clearly, the word "love" can have an extraordinary range of meanings and associations. This in turn suggests that these circumstances also explain the public's enthusiasm for the sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss. When this work—in accordance with its inherent tendency—is presented in the public sphere, multitudes of people encounter it in continuously new, incidental, and unforeseeable ways, considering and interpreting the work from all possible angles.

LOVE (1966) by Robert IndianaIndianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields

This explanation seems plausible, highlighting again that the public sphere is indispensable for the existence of an artwork such as this. But there's more to it than that. We only get the full picture when we consider the profound restructuring of society created by the onslaught of electronic media over the last few decades.

The fundamental changes that have taken place can be most easily seen when compared to an artwork from the predigital age. The visualization of the word "love" is particularly suitable for this purpose. For this we can thank artist Robert Clark, who gave himself the artist pseudonym "Robert Indiana." His most famous work originally came from a Christmas card design which he created for the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1965.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

But this is also a work based on lettering. It had already become one of the best-known Pop Art works and a symbol of the hippie movement when it was also made into a sculpture for the first time in 1970. While Indiana's love sculpture exhibits a carefree self-confidence through its strong colors alone, the love-hate sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss is far more prudent and reflective. 

Despite its substantial scale, its unpainted rust-brown steel plates appear fragile in comparison. The principles of the design of Indiana's work originate from information graphics and commodity esthetics. For this reason, his sculpture appears to be a cross between a road sign and a consumer product, greatly enlarged in size and with a focus on minimalist clarity. Indiana's sculpture therefore embodies the modern commodity.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture (3D Preview)

50 years ago, however, consumers were still relentless in their judgment of overly esthetic commodities which were presented to them in the most alluring, desirable way possible. Today, we are increasingly the objects being judged. In the new digital media age, we and everything we put about ourselves in public is constantly subject to the judgment of an anonymous audience that decides what it likes and what it doesn't. Even teenagers style their appearance and behavior primarily on how many likes and rejections they generate on so-called "social" media. The digital public sphere has become an arena for the constant redistribution of love and hate.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

The interplay between love and hate is not just a popular theme among the digitally literate public. Rather, it is an inherent working principle. Whoever cries out for love today is also inviting hate. It is simply not immediately obvious because it looks just like love. It is its reversal and twin. In Goethe's Faust, the "force of hate" and the "power of love" could still be considered symptoms of an individual youthful energy that diminish with age. Today, this energy feeds an entire social system. Love and hate have always featured in the feelings of individuals. They only became powerful driving forces in society in the digital public sphere.

The Two-Word Poem "Love/Hate" Sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss

Here, in this digital public sphere, the love-hate sculpture by Mia Florentine Weiss became what it is today. At the same time, however, it highlights—as we are slowly coming to realize—the fundamental forces we are all exposed to by this public sphere. From this interaction between the opposing momenta of love and hate grows a coincidentia oppositorum—a unity of opposites—that defines our lives across the whole world.

Credits: Story

Explore the artwork in 3D and Augmented Reality: Glass VersionOriginal VersionBrandenburg Gate Version

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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