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Louise Brady – Let’s talk about Love

“It ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.”  – Raymond Carver

This week I’d like to talk about love. Well, really the current show in IMMA, What We Call Love. I went to see this show a few weeks ago and I find myself repeatedly thinking back to it.

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Wolfgang Tillmans, Central Nervous System, 2013

It was one of the more inspiring shows I have seen in recent years, mainly as it related heavily to what I am interested in exploring in my own practice.

An exciting grouping together of ‘old’ and ‘new’ works in an impressive range of media, I saw this exhibition as reclamation of both the word and the topic – an unashamed embrace and acceptance of these shared yet often unspoken feelings and experiences.

Since the show I have been reflecting on my own work and the reasons why I find the theme so hard to resist investigating. The paradoxical and cyclical nature appeals to me, as does the non-existence of ‘correct answers’.

Although the idea of love is a universal one, it has been constantly shifting and changing throughout time for a huge variety of reasons – with differing interpretations and distinctions brought with each new generation.

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Felix-Gonzalez Torres, Untitled  (Perfect Lovers), 1988.

It is not unusual to be confused by the notion. A search for the definition in a dictionary yields a huge variety of results.

Love [luv] n. warm affection; benevolence; charity; sexual passion; sweetheart; Tennis etc. score of nothing – vt. Admire passionately; delight in – vi. Be in love – love’(e)able a. – love’less a. – love’lorn a. forsaken by pining for a lover – love’liness n. – love’ly “– and it goes on.

A search on Google totals 4,470,000,000 results in .55 seconds and hits include titles like,‘Love; How to Find it, Keep it, Know its Real’ and suggested searches of films, songs, poems and various love calculators.

 

There is such diversity attributed to the uses and meanings of the word ‘love’. This, merged with the complication and range of feelings involved in the act or experience of love, makes it problematic to define consistently, particularly in comparison to other emotions.

Another complication arises, as the word can be used to describe a very intense emotion and then be reduced and used as a throw away comment for describing an enjoyment of an object or activity.

The ancient Greeks distinguished four forms of love: kinship or familiarity, friendship, sexual and/or romantic desire, and self-emptying or divine love.  The Romans used it more or less as we do today, both in an affectionate and then in a romantic or sexual sense. In Turkish tradition, if a person were to use a specific word to indicate their love for a person, this is very distinct and exclusive to what they may feel for a friend or parent, and indicates infatuation.

This is just touching on a vast range of non-Western views and attitudes to love, both as word and action or experience – without going into interpretations on relationships, marriage and co habitation.

From a biological stand point; it would seem to be a main drive – a reason to find a partner in order to procreate. A drive, that even in this modern age, seems to hold strong – although it is subtler in its display.Maybe, without wanting to admit it, most people would put the search for love at the top of their list and centering their lives on it.Longing and searching for it, finding and then maintaining it.

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Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Rest Energy, 1980.

 

Within my practice, I have looked to find writings and theories on love. Philosophers have, it seemed to me, have been surprisingly quiet on the topic of love.

Descartes famously declared, “I know what stirs in me this affection, in that I feel its effects, and I preserve it as the sweetest sentiment of my soul: and yet, with all that, I do not truly know what it means”.

Touching on the subject and its incomprehension but perhaps leaving more elaborate musings on love to artists and poets.

Arthur Schopenhauer was one philosopher that seemed to take the idea of love and romance with great seriousness. Schopenhauer took the view that when choosing a partner, subconsciously we are looking to find physical traits from that person that will combine with our own to create, in his words, ‘balanced children’. For example, a large nose combined with a small nose promises a flawless nose. This is a theory that relates to the idea that ‘opposites attract’.

Some would argue that Schopenhauer’s views on love are flawed, that love is not merely some delusion with procreation being the main goal. These protests would lead us to the conclusion that love is our ultimate redemption for all our otherwise more selfish nature. Love can overcome our impulsive instincts towards the more ugly parts of our make up.

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Antonioni, La Notte (Film Still), 1961

 “When I woke this morning, you were still asleep. As I awoke I heard you gentle breathing. I saw you closed eyes beneath wisps of stray hair and I was deeply moved. I wanted to cry out, to wake you, but you slept so deeply, so soundly. “

“In the half light you skin gloved with life so warm and sweet. I wanted to kiss it, but I was afraid to wake you. I was afraid of you awake in my arms again. Instead, I wanted to something no one could take from me, mine alone…this eternal image of you. Beyond your face I saw a pure, beautiful vision showing us in the perspective of my whole life…all the year to come, even all the years past.”

Lidia, Final Scene, Antonioni’s ‘La Notte’.

Interest in the idea of love often met with contempt, sometimes embarrassment and ironic attitudes. We are surrounded by it, contemporary culture is so heavily saturated in ideas of love and loss. Most films, music lyrics and books tend to be about or focus on the topic at some

point. Falling in and out of love, musings on relationships – the reasons why we enter into them and the heartbreak of when it doesn’t work out the way we would have liked it to.

 

 

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Peanuts Strip, Schulz.

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” – Dr. Suess

 

I highly recommend the show – some of my best picks from it are Wolfgang Tillmans, Rebecca Horn, Nan Goldin and Meret Oppenheim.

The show ends on the 7th of February – see imma.ie for more details.

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