Los Angeles- and Berlin- based writer Saskia Vogel is not only one of our contributors – but together with the artist and author Michael Salu, she hosts and curates the event series „Local Transport“ in London. The latest event, „Data & Desire“, took place during the London Literature Festival, which felt like a perfect reason to chat with Saskia about a pressing question that will affect us all: What will love look like in the future?
Each edition of Local Transport is a critical and conceptual multimedia event that dissects cross sections of contemporary society, culture, politics and economics through the prism of multidisciplinary creative works. Local Transport bring together creative practitioners for collaboration and discussion, using their works as a way of looking at the world. The event takes place four times a year in London, but has plans to travel.
Hey Saskia! Would you have a crush on me if I would be a mobile electronic device?
I think I would say no, but I would act like yes. How many hours do I spend gazing at my electronic devices, propping them up on pillows in my bed, just to spend another five minutes with whatever it is that feels so very exciting or important right then? I am weirdly fond of my iPad.
OK, seriously: What was the latest Local Transport edition about?
Local Transport is all about cross-over and tearing down the boundaries (perceived or real) between the arts. So, we curate each event to a theme, and bring in three artists, writers and/or musicians whose work touches on the idea we want to explore. Each artist takes the stage for 15 minutes. The London Literature Festival invited us to do an event that related to the theme of their festival: Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. Michael Salu, the event’s co-founder and my co-conspirator on this project, and I had been thinking a lot about Big Data. About how much information we have at our fingertips and how much we can know about ourselves and others. But, we wondering what it all means in the context of life’s mysteries and intangibles. In this case, love, sex, desire.
Natasha Caruana, who won the 2014 BMW Residency Award, was exploring the phenomenon of love at first sight through psychological and scientific love experiments and the art of photography. Michael Salu took the stage this time as a writer as well as a host with a story that he reworked for the stage. Together with new photographs of urban spaces by Ruth Blees Luxemburg, his text explored how we predetermine our dreams and desires through our experiences and behavior. Nathan Ives Moiba, an actor who will be performing at London’s National Theatre joined him on stage for the dramatized reading. And Catherine Anyango gave us a sneak preview of her dystopian graphic novel 2×2, in which sink holes are mysteriously appearing in the city.
After online-porn and dating-apps are we finally entering a new era of sex and desire?
We’re all so hungry for human contact and connection, right? Vanity Fair did an interesting piece on Tinder and hook-up culture recently, discussing that nature of this landscape: how behaviors are changing, who has the power in these transactions. The article was certainly making a case for a new era. But these technologies are fairly new (thinking is terms of social change), and I think we’re in a period of transition, exploring how these technologies enable certain behaviors, what they mean to us personally and as a society. Which behaviors do we want to encourage? We need to reassess traditional notions of courtship and the pursuit of sex and love, and everyone using these apps is participating in this process. The generations of people using these technologies now are doing the hard work of re-establishing norms for the pursuit for love, connection, romance, sex…and how we learn what love, sex and romance looks and feels like.
Do you believe that code can identify your perfect partner?
And here we are: right back at the intangibles of life and love. So many things look good „on paper“, but are impossible in practice.
Will machines fall in love with each other some day soon?
I’d love to see what that would look like. But there’s so much else that comes with love. Think of any story where a man goes on a quest to avenge the death of his one true love. How dangerous (or world-altering) would that impulse be in our world where we upgrade and discard our machines so thoughtlessly?
Will big-data allow us to decode the miracle of physical attraction?
In one of Natasha’s experiments, scientists tracked the amount of tips strippers received at various points in their menstrual cycle. The highs and lows of tips had a direct correlation to when they were ovulating. And then she presented a short experiment that is said to be able to short-cut the process of falling in love. During rehearsal, I looked into the eyes of Chiqui Love, the dancer who was performing on stage later. (We hadn’t met before.) We looked at each other for our four minutes, while Natasha asked us questions like, „Do you practice what you’re going to say before you make a phone call?“ Chiqui and I both felt closer after this: we had shared a moment of intimacy, we had let our guards down. Even as I write this now, I’m struck by how connected I still feel to her: my brain has definitely filed her in the „people I feel like I can be open with“ category. So, it seems there are lots of ways that attraction and intimacy can be reverse engineered.
How would you describe the relationship to your laptop?
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