Panel 3: New Patterns of Love

15:30–15:50 Alisha Doody: How to Love

How to Love, is of a contemporary photographic project which developed as a response to the commodification of love and to the changing face of romance in the digital age. Love and sexuality in their most traditional forms are heteronormative, this is inescapable. Living in a queer/lesbian relationship means living on the outside of these traditions, pushing against them. Issues arise when the learned behaviours, the actions of how to love, which are inherently heteronormative pervade these boundaries and attempts are made to fit into the “heteronormative mould”. How to Love acts as a pseudo “how to” guide for the fledgling queer woman where commercial high-key coloured imagery of clothes and aphrodisiac foods are juxtaposed alongside graphic text and personalised polaroids, that are designed to highlight the pervasiveness of these issues and the expectations on lesbian and queer woman to educate others about the sexuality or frame and justify their sexual experiences through a heteronormative lens. “Queerness” refers to a set of standards and norms that dictate what one must not do with their gender and sexuality (such as having a non-normative gender or sexual identity). Queerness is prohibited in society since we have been socialized to feel uncomfortable with its appearance. Queerness is also systematically repressed because we have been taught to idealize heteronormativity over, and against, queerness. As Sara Ahmed speaks of heteronormativity functioning as a form of comfort in public space, this project plays with that idea and highlights the ways that queerness in public space is uncomfortable, but in the juxtaposition with commercial images attempts to bring discomfort to the heteronormative lens by sexualising foods and desexualising sex toys. “So the closer that queer subjects get to the spaces defined by heteronormativity the more potential there is for a reworking of the heteronormative, partly as the proximity ‘shows’ how the spaces extend some bodies rather than others” (Ahmed 2004: 152).

Alisha Doody is a visual artist and educator working within the mediums of photography and moving image. As a queer woman based in Ireland her work has emerged from her exploration of contemporary society through personal experience. As a result of her experiences she began developing an interest in how histories and mentorship can influence the formation of identity within individuals but also collectively within communities. She is committed to ethical and educational engagements with the LGBTQ+ community to understand and represent the effect of the current social and political landscape on this diverse identity and the sharing of this research with the community it involves.

15:55–16:15 Dunja Plazonja: Brief Encounters: Desire and Fantasy in Long-Distance Relationships

One could argue that one of the most dreaded forms of adult romantic partnerships is the long-distance relationship. Couples fear the strain long distances place on their intimacy and avoid this type of romantic partnership if at all possible, but the precarious living and financial conditions that people have in the past fifteen years found themselves in have often left us with no other options but to try and make it long distance. Indeed, today’s world is by and large defined by economic and financial instability which more often than not forces people to make drastic decisions that involve moving to other cities or other countries in search for employment and/or better living and working conditions. These decisions inevitably affect our love lives. People involved in long-distance relationships are, therefore, doomed to repeat occasional and brief romantic encounters, depending of course on the couple’s financial possibilities. Since most of the time the couple is separated, the stability of their relationship rests on the strength of the fantasies about their next brief romantic encounter. In the meantime, they are left with strategies of intimacy-by-proxy in the form of Skype video calls, text messages, sexting, phone sex, and other means of maintaining intimacy they have at their disposal. This paper will try to analyze various aspects of the long-distance relationship, focusing on fantasy, and its connection to desire and love, as an intricate segment of the structure of long-distance relationships. Bearing in mind Lauren Berlant’s statement that “love is deemed always an outcome of fantasy” (Berlant 2012: 69) this paper will deconstruct fantasy as “the setting for desire’s enactment” (ibid). By presenting personal experiences in long-distance relationships in the form of notes, text messages, photographs, e-mails and descriptions of fantasies about upcoming encounters with my romantic long-distance partner and juxtaposing them to theoretical practices on desire and love, I will try to show how long-distance relationships open up new spaces for considering love and desire, and how major economic disruptions and changes force us to change our perceptions on what constitutes love, desire, and intimacy.

Dunja Plazonja was born in 1984. She graduated in Comparative Literature and English at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb and is now a PhD candidate in literature, writing her thesis in feminism and narratology. She has published papers in Croatia and abroad and presented her work at numerous conferences around Europe. Her areas of interest are: popular culture, feminist readings of horror films, feminist dystopian fiction, contemporary women writers, affect theory, and autofiction.

16:20–16:40 David Ashley Kerr: WHAT IS LOVE? BABY DON´T HURT ME Love, images and the Digital Ether

We face an unprecedented conflation of private and public thanks to the rise of social media and online visual culture. In this paper, I self- reflexively revolve around the question: How does this conflation operate to collectivise love? This paper expands on my recent article on the theme of the role of the image in online culture, but also in the recollection of emotional, intimate memory - and the collective all- too-public gauntlet of conducting ones love life online. I probe the big question of Love within the constraints of these new societal rules - rules that are constantly being redefined, and which raise new concerns regarding forms of agency.

My research focus is on the presence of melancholy, intimacy and affective emotion in digital culture, and our increased dependency on the visual. Regarding love in the extreme hyper-present, where the grass is always greener and online small talk (and profile stalking) the new courtship, too often is the feeling one of a projection of our individual narcissistic ideals, coupled with what is #trending. And our desires (and anxieties) are now more easily communicable, articulated and diversified, more than ever. With that said however, as Tiqqun puts it, “Rarely has an epoch been so violently shaken by desires, and rarely has desire been so empty”. The post modern irony we valued so much at the advent of internet culture is now somewhere else, someplace darker, infinitely looped and irrevocably self-aware, like mould gathering in a dank corner where the dankest of memes are cultivated. So are displaying strong, tender feelings of love becoming discouraged and diluted through the vestiges of our ironic post-modern era? Or is there a return to more sincere gestures of love, like the ones we valorise from literature and art of the romantic period? Modern love online increasingly represents a series of sentiments, desires and intimacies exchanged and projected from safe and orderly distances. But as contemporary artist Nora Turato aptly puts it: sentiments are ok, sentimentality is not.

Did a romantic letter exchange of days gone contain the same series of intense, banal, exchanges? Perhaps, but certainly no dick pics, emojis or profile stalking. When previously we relied on the nuance of words, images now serve us much more aptly as forms of communication, revealing our increased dependency on the visual in today’s digital ether. Our interconnected digital lives are a series of hyper-aware visual narratives, perpetually updated, made ironic, lambasted, fetishised, and valorised. So how do we exactly express sincere desire and intimacy in our digital hyper present? These new normalities include new methods of engagement, new pains, and new expectations. With a self-deprecating focus on the stickiness of our online presence in the context of love (and heartbreak), I finally bring forth the question regarding redefining normativity in love: Are online feels the same as IRL feels?

David Ashley Kerr (1986, Australia) is an artist-curator living and working between Helsinki, Finland and Weimar, Germany. Melancholy, the Non-Human, the Gaze, and the darker elements of the human condition are what drive his artistic and curatorial research practice as a whole. He has taught at Photography Studies College and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, and has participated in several international residencies and exhibitions in various capacities. His artistic research stages relationships between body and landscape, voyeur and performer, and he is currently examining the averted gaze, desire and intimacy in the post-digital. In 2018 he was a Post Doctoral Art Fellow at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and is currently Visiting Researcher at the Center for Artistic Research (CfAR) of the University of the Arts (Uniarts) Helsinki.