I Know Something About Love

In Parasol unit’s latest exhibition, Yinka Shonibare, Yang Fudong, Shirin Neshat and Christodoulos Panayiotou prove that they do know something about love as their visually seductive works tell tales of l’amour ripe with romance and nostalgia. I Know Something About Love reads as a gushing four-verse love poem to love itself – an extended visual sonnet that unfolds in time and space, instilling optimism, hope and desire in the love-stricken audience that ventures to dive on in.

What has always been striking about the space at Parasol unit is its impressive shapeshifting nature – the rooms constructed for one exhibition are completely dissolved in the next. Here, for I Know Something About Love, two floors have been transformed to create a one-way procession that takes you through tales of love and lust – a trail one can easily lose themselves in.


The ground floor of the exhibition space has been overtaken by an ivy covered labyrinth –  a wrong turn finds you in a dead end, forced to turn back around and try again. However if you choose the right path, you may turn the corner and happen upon an intimate scene of love that looks strangely familiar.

Yinka Shonibare, MBE, The Confession, 2007. Two mannequins, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, shoes, coir matting, artificial silk flowers. 158 x 178 x 170 cm. Image © Yinka Shonibare, MBE, courtesy the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London. Photograph: Patrick Gries for Musée du quai Branly, Paris

Jardin d’amour, originally created in 2007 for the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, is an elaborate maze by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE, that contains three hidden sculptural tableaux. A sense of uncanniness is played out in our recognition of the scenes, taken from the eighteenth century Fragonard series, ‘Progress of Love,’ and here given the Shonibare treatment – headless figures with skin colour of indeterminate origin are clad in the colonial Dutch wax fabrics. In this Garden of Love identity is uncertain and authenticity questioned…

Love is never what it seems.

Yang Fudong, Flutter, Flutter... Jasmine, Jasmine, 2002. Video still, Three-channel video installation. Music by Miya Dudu. © Yang Fudong, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.

Emerging from the maze and heading up the stairs, a sense of self is still hazy as Yang Fudong’s three channel video piece Flutter, Flutter… Jasmine, Jasmine explores the challenges of identity facing a generation of Chinese youth, filtered through perceptions of love. Here, a young couple, unsure of who they are, turn to each other to find themselves, struggling between what they think they should feel for each other and what they actually feel. When describing the first time they made love, the woman tells us, laughingly, that her partner seemed like a monster…

Love is complicated.

Shirin Neshat, Fervor, 2000. Video still, Two-channel black and white video/audio installation. © Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York.

Further complicated by the traditions and values of Islamic society Shirin Neshat’s Fervor, finds love in a place where it is forbidden to be. A poetic, mirrored, two-screen video depicts a man and a woman who in a brief moment passing on the street have an instantaneous connection. As the film footage splits apart and comes back together, so do the characters. Their emotions culminate when they are shown to be physically divided by a thick curtain that separates the men and women, yet they are still intensely aware of the presence of one another; their connection electrifying…

Love is everywhere, where it is forbidden be.

Christodoulos Panayiotou, Slow dance marathon, 2005. Video still, Video (documentation of a performance). © Christodoulos Panayiotou, courtesy the artist and Rodeo, Istanbul.

Cypriot artist Christodoulos Panayiotou work, Slow dance marathon, continues to find love in unexpected places. Instead of having a barrier erected these individuals are asked to break down all sense of personal space. A document of a performative social experiment, Panayiotou asked volunteers, unknown to one another, to slow dance in a 24 hour public marathon. The warm embraces and tender caresses of strangers who perform gestures of love construct a tableau influenced by the expectations of the audience and the popular culture songs to which they dance.

Love can be what we force it to be.

Moving through the verses of love poem constructed here we find longing, lust and desire. Yes, we are told something about love, but even someone as daft as myself in the ways of love know this is not everything about love. The high from sugary sweet optimism cannot last for long.