By DeeDee Hughes, Staff Writer
Berlin has been left in a state of outrage as a Dutch artist’s performance art installation goes horribly wrong. Dries Verhoeven is an avant-garde and self-titled “theater maker and visual artist.” His work consists primarily of installations and performance pieces featured all over Europe. His latest performance, “Wanna play? Love in the time of Grindr” was shut down this past week due to public complaint.
In theory, Verhoeven was to live in a clear glass box for 15 days and use the dating app, Grindr, as the only method of human interaction. He would invite users to come to the glass box and participate in non-sexual activities with him. This sounds a bit strange, but fine, right?
Here’s the catch: the conversations Verhoeven had with anonymous users were displayed publicly on a screen in the box without their knowledge or consent. Even worse, some users were still recognized despite the measures taken to ensure their anonymity.
Thus, the project lasted for less than half of the intended performance time, which was the first 15 days of October. Despite Verhoeven’s fatal error, there is still a lot to be said for the performance.
When I first heard about this project I rolled my eyes and clicked on the article with a heavy dose of skepticism. However, Verhoeven is an artist that prides himself on making social commentaries and approaching new trends in society with radical views. After learning a little bit more about the concept behind the performance, I think Verhoeven is attempting to make a valid point.
Verhoeven argues that dating apps, like Grindr, have become so popular that the traditional dating culture is dying out, and I agree. Furthermore, a lot of these apps are destroying the idea of relationships and dates altogether; people only use them for hook-ups.
Verhoeven aimed this project at the gay community, arguing that the use of gay dating apps creates another type of “closet” for people to hide in; that the need for gay liberation dies when there is such an easy way to secretly and anonymously fulfill the need for human relationships. This trend brings the gay community even farther away from the straight community and negates all of the recent strides for gay rights.
What I appreciate about this project is that it transcends the “gay community.” This idea is applicable to all of the younger generations that have begun to rely on social media to make human connections. Verhoeven was erroneous in his approach but this piece of performance art has an incredibly insightful perspective to offer on current dating culture.