Performing Love#01: I’m loving you

Performing Love #01: I am Loving You is an exploration on the idea of love experienced through computer screens, related to a broader inquiry into the nature of online relationships. I am loving you uses a video- roulette site as its medium. There, random people were invited to be loved by someone behind a hand- made sign, in an attempt to avoid common biases related to gender or age.

The first question I put to myself was about the home. Or conversely, as Joseph Grima puts it: “home is the answer, but what is the question?” (2014: 12). My inquiry was more precisely about digital networks and domestic space, about the Internet and the home. As a recent immigrant, I wanted to know what it meant to be at home, and what the role of non-human elements and communication technologies was in that feeling. As Manuel de Landa (1995) recalls:
We tend to forget not only the flow of food but also the flow of electricity into our homes, as well as the electrical and hormonal flows in our bodies which play such crucial roles in the ‘feeling of home’. And we tend to talk of the ‘information age’ without realizing that the future is as much about energy and materials as it is about information.
Where was my being at home happening? In the mundane conversations I was having with my mother in another country or in this place where I had no memories, no previous connections? Those conversations were not only real while they were happening: They impacted my environment, my habits, my relationships. At the same time, the new place I was inhabiting had an unfamiliar smell, things that belonged to other people, trajectories not fully contracted.

Even the distinction between home and house was new for me. Although there are similar words in Spanish, my primary language, their use is completely different. Soon I learned that a house is not a home but a home is where the heart is. Would it still be possible to consider this home in material terms, with media as part of the environment? If media can be understood as part of “an atmospheric grid of connections where distinct milieus adapt together” (Parisi, 2009: 182), creating “intensive environmental relations” (Parikka, 2010: 169), I wanted to know how online relationships were happening in this context.

An online interaction with my family, a transposed idea of home, the role of communicating media in those configurations, seemed to be safe routes to explore. However, how do we account for the impact of screen-mediated communications with unknown people? With unknown unknowns? I started to explore video-roulette websites, which were at the time of these explorations (2011) still in early states of emergence. On those sites people are connected randomly, in real time, using webcams and text chat. Unlike exchanges with known or predetermined people, where the medium is secondary to the relationship, video-roulettes websites offered a brief opaque moment into the common transparency of digital media. At the beginning, a quick scan in these websites seemed to show the fascinating portrait of a new generation of Internet users: young, alone in their bedrooms, permanently connected, bored: the local face of a global phenomena. However, despite my enthusiasm, the interactions with people through these sites were surprisingly predictable, with idiosyncrasies arguably inherited from mainstream pornography and common biases related to gender, age, and beauty standards. While the main attractor in video-roulette websites was presumably desire and the opportunity of an erotic interaction—or at least that was my unsupported vision—I was intrigued by the range of different expressions in that context. Was it possible, for example, to love unknown people? To perform love through a computer screen toward random people? And to receive it? As Luciana Parisi argues, technical changes are “inseparable from changes in the material, cognitive and affective capacities of a body to feel” (2009: 182) and I wanted to explore those mobilizations of affect and communicate those experiences as experience.

I developed a performative experiment: On my side of the screen I was behind a handmade sign saying ‘I’m loving you’ (Figure 9.3)—in an attempt to avoid common biases related to gender or age—trying to feel and express that emotion. I invited the random people the video-roulette connected me with to be loved and observed the response. The invitation was received with disconcertion most of the time, some curiosity, indifference, and anger. There was also a contact with someone broadcasting a distorted image of a military flight. But suddenly, in a connection with someone that did not show their face, something happened. There was a minimal conversation through the chat, and it felt, surprisingly, like love. I was recording the whole performance and I made a video with extracts of it, editing it with a soundtrack that aimed to help communicate the experience.

Project updates

  • Fungal Strategies in Envisioning Networked Urban Mobilities November 22, 2017 I’m so happy to see the chapter I wrote for ‘Envisioning Networked Urban Mobilities: Art, Performances, Impacts’, edited by Aslak Aamot Kjaerulff, Sven Kesselring, Peter Peters, Kevin Hannam which not only is in black and white (printed!) but has nice color pictures. So satisfying at many levels, including of course the fetishistic one! Thank you, Aslak!
  • Fungi in the Cosmobilities Conference November 24, 2014 Performing Love and The Moldy Strategy were presented at the Networked Urban Mobilities and Mobile Art Exhibition, 2014, in Copenhagen. A publication is expected soon… Thank you Aslak Aamot Kjærulff for the invitation!      
  • Performing Love in NMP April 28, 2011 Performing Love #01: I am loving you was originally intended as a collaboration for No More Potlucks, Amour Issue.