Five lessons on how to love extravagantly by (bio)artists


Everybody has experienced love in one way or another. Love can be warm and fluffy, engulfing one in a cloud of bliss, moody and inexplicable, it can also be quite dark and obsessive, marked by jealousy and manipulation. There are literally an infinite number of variables on how people experience intimacy and sexuality, affection and passion. And yet when we speak about love, we often focus on politically correct, often heterosexual, preferably morally upright couples. People who fall in love with household objects, themselves or natural phenomena rarely get relationship advice in their favourite newspaper column.

At the time in which technological and scientific developments are shaping and quickly transforming every aspect of being human, it’s important to imagine and better understand the effect it may have on the very foundation of human interaction, namely, love in all its possibilities.  

Last week, Kontejner in Zagreb gathered a wonderful selection of artists, scientists and researchers to reimagine love and raise previously unasked questions in their Extravagant Love festival, curated by Klara Petrović, Luja Šimunović and Stahl Stenslie. These are just some of the lessons that we took back home.

PHANES  by Jaden J.A. Hastings, (c) Kontejner

PHANES by Jaden J.A. Hastings, (c) Kontejner

Your love can be purely genetic

Looking for the ‘perfect’ match? Swipe no more… Jaden J. A. Hastings’ project PHANES (Posthuman Artificial Net Embryo Synthesizer) is an artificial intelligence, trained to find errors in one’s genome and propose and ideal DNA partner. Her love goes beyond her preferences as a person and entrusts herself in the hands of pure genetics that would yield a perfect offspring as dictated by evolution. An amazing thing about this project is that PHANES is entirely functional and, therefore, it takes an idea of a perfect match already explored via dating apps to a different level. Would you sacrifice your personal freedom of choice for a mate in exchange for a healthier, smarter, more attractive child? 

Your love for technology can be taken to another level

An obsession with technology is not new. People display clear signs of addiction to video games, social media and porn. Yet technology has so far played a role of a medium where obsession (or fetish) can be exercised. Dani Ploeger’s project FETISH invites you to engage in an intimate encounter with the screen of an electronic tablet. By licking the screen, one continues to illuminate it, engaging in a weirdly (enlightening) act, a corporeal interface between man and machine. But whose needs are actually being met?     

FETISH  by Dani Ploeger, 2014-2016, (c) Kontejner

FETISH by Dani Ploeger, 2014-2016, (c) Kontejner

Your love can transgress different boundaries 

K-9_topology: Hybrid Family by Maja Smrekar goes beyond the theoretical engagement with non-human entities (in this case, animal) in order to achieve a real, tangible interspecies’ bond in which she takes up a role of a loving mother. A few years ago, she stayed in seclusion with her dogs, systematically breast-pumping to release the hormone prolactin and eating foods rich in galactogogues to promote lactation, in order to physically change her body into that of a mother for her canine family members. Maja’s work envisions the future in which love transgresses the species’ boundaries and is non-hierarchical. Can we achieve a truly loving relationship between humans and non-human, and expand the idea of a family?

K-9_typology: Hybrid Family  by Maja Smrekar, 2016, (c) the artist

K-9_typology: Hybrid Family by Maja Smrekar, 2016, (c) the artist

Electroplating the Baby  by Darko Vukić, 2019, (c) Kontejner

Electroplating the Baby by Darko Vukić, 2019, (c) Kontejner

Your love can be turned into an artefact

Situated between necro- and bio-politics, Darko Vukić’s work Electroplating the Baby imagines a future, in which one’s unborn baby can be preserved as a perfect artifact of love that can be reached between two people - a culmination of unification, of preservation and continuation. Raising a myriad of ethical questions, Electroplating the Baby, asks whether turning a fetus into a precious silver object, can capture the very essence of love and turn something intangible into an object of admiration.   

Your love can overcome rejection

Marta de Menezes’s installation Anti-Marta is an ode to the bodily impossibility of a perfect bond and yet the beauty of loving someone and feeling equally connected to another body as your own. Marta and her husband Luis have a love pact for life. Their search for a further representation of such a pact led to the transplantation of skin grafts, resulting into a rapid rejection due to the immunity differences. Bodily, they remained individuals, but the rejection of skin has led to the production of molecules (antibodies) that forever will be able to identify the other. Anti-Marta shows how lovers can bond while at the same time maintaining their (bodily) identity. Could this be viewed as a take-home lesson for relationships in general?

Anti-Marta  by Marta de Menezes, 2018, (c) Kontejner

Anti-Marta by Marta de Menezes, 2018, (c) Kontejner

If you want more lessons on how to love and be loved, visit Kontejner’s Extravagant Love exhibition before it ends in Zagreb on the 10th of October.