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Modern Love

(or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies)


Museum für Neue Kunst in Freiburg, Germany |

Tallinn Art Hall, Estonia | Impakt Festival, Netherlands

03.10.20 — 07.03.21

Participating artists: Gabriel Abrantes, Hannah Toticki Anbert, Melanie Bonajo, Laura Cemin, Benjamin Crotty, Marijke De Roover, Kyriaki Goni, David Haines, Juliet Jacques, Mahmoud Khaled, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Kyle McDonald, Maria Mavropoulou, Marge Monko, Peter Puklus, Margaret Salmon

The exhibition Modern Love explores the state of love and intimate social relations today in the age of the Internet, social media and high capitalism – an age characterised by what sociologist Eva Illouz has called “cold intimacies”. It probes how the digital sphere, the impact of the technology giants and neo-liberal practices have transformed love and romantic relations, and how they have influenced the way we interact with one another. The accessibility of the Internet to an ever-greater number of people has had both liberating and empowering effects, when deployed in the right way. In addition, crumbling taboos and biases around gender and sexuality and the advent of more open, emancipated varieties of lifestyles, have also liberated human choice in matters of the heart. On the other hand, we also live in a time that philosopher Byung-Chul Han has labelled “emotional capitalism”, where human emotions have been co-opted by market forces. The dating supermarkets of Tinder and Grindr, “speed dating” and the ease of Internet exchange – apart from offering possibilities – have also hollowed out relationships and led to selfish or narcissistic forms of behaviour and misleading images of the self, making it ever more difficult to establish what is real, meaningful or true.


The exhibition thus looks into how the Internet, on the one hand, has liberated non-heteronormative sexual identities and given them free space for expression, especially in societies where queerness or non-binary sexuality are considered taboo, or even forbidden. On the other, it also explores the human pathologies associated with the commodification of emotion, digital conformism and the effects of digital dependency on relationships, as well as the issues that arise when the boundaries between the public and private, the virtual and the real, become increasingly fluid. The Covid-19 pandemic and physical distancing have added another challenge to fulfilling human interaction and have yet further exacerbated the problem of ‘cold intimacies’, intimacies that now predominantly play out in the digital domain due to physical distancing.


Time, physical interaction, openness to the other, selflessness, empathy, patience and tolerance are some of the key components in the practice of love; these are very often hampered by virtual communication. The current widespread culture of incessant self-promotion, arch-individualism, self-love, the increasing ‘performance of the self’, narcissism and workaholism are perhaps some of the reasons why so many people feel alone today, despite their many ‘friends’ on Facebook and Instagram followers. Frustrated by false expectations and digital ‘experiences’, crushed by information overload, digital fatigue, the peer pressure of social media, the obsession with appearances, fear of failure or invisibility, standardised benchmarks for beauty and success, lack of time and the anxiety of uncertainty, it is unsurprising why.


Modern Love explores love and intimate social relations within the complexities of the ever-interconnected networked, digital world with a view to prompting their reconsideration. It is as much about individuals as it is about the systems of control that bind them together. Equally, it is about new societal patterns and the challenges as well as possibilities that the Internet and social media presence. At a time of increasing alienation, individualism and loneliness – symptoms of our world’s increasingly urbanised lifestyles – how can we reclaim meaningful intimate relationships and love as a potent emotional force and intense psychological bond between people that gives meaning to our lives in ways that no other interaction, ‘object’ or experience can? How can love be rescued from the claws of capital and the corporate technosphere? How can one resist the instrumentalisation of love and its superficialisation and banalisation by commerce and social media? Modern Love looks into the pathologies and problems afflicting love and matters of the heart today, aiming to prompt a reconsideration of how we engage with those nearest to us and prompting us to imagine a way out of current feelings of emotional sterility, loneliness and the ‘cold intimacies’ engendered by the digital revolution.
- Katerina Gregos

Modern Love (or Love in the Age of Cold Intimacies) is supported by: Estonian Embassy in Berlin, Danish Arts Council, The Danish Arts Foundation, Estonian Artists’ Association, Cultural Endowment of Estonia

For further information click here.

All photos: Bernhard Straus

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