What does it mean to love in the digital age? How are digital interfaces reshaping our personal relationships? What do new technologies imply for the future of the romantic sphere? How do screens affect our sexual intimacy and our desire for connection?
In terms of romance and intimacy, Internet and smartphones have generated new complexities that we are still trying to figure out. All these phenomena became hot-button in March 2020, when a global pandemic placed millions of people under total lockdown, enforcing to reconfigure most of social activities online and in a technology-mediated form. From online working to online partying, humans all over the planet tried to play with the discontents of social distancing, and to live the no-contact reality as the new normal.
This forced self-isolation and touch-less condition proved to be a significant driver for many people to move their romantic lives into the digital realm, inspiring new ways of courting, dating and catching, for both confirmed and novice users.
The massive scale of this phenomenon is evidence enough of its potential for profit and an extensive collection of user data and raises questions about the planned obsolescence that is supposedly inherent in this business model: the idea that online dating companies acknowledge the search for partners as a recreational activity and a product of the libidinal economy to be endless consumed.
According to philosopher Paul B. Preciado in Learning from the Virus (2020), « the subjects of the neoliberal technical-patriarchal societies that Covid-19 is in the midst of creating do not have skin; they are untouchable; they do not have hands. […] They do not have lips or tongues. They do not speak directly; they leave a voice mail. They do not gather together and they do not collectivize. They are radically un-dividual. They do not have faces; they have masks. In order to exist, their organic bodies are hidden behind an indefinite series of semio-technical mediations, an array of cybernetic prostheses that work like digital masks: email addresses, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and Skype accounts ».
By bringing together the work of several international and Belgian artists, the exhibition SWIPE RIGHT! Data, Dating, Desire attempts to explore new directions in contemporary romance and map the unprecedented connections between desire, emotion, technology, and economy in the post-pandemic world.