Love, designed

Falling in Love – Making it happen

12 September 2023
From the exhibition

Butterflies in your stomach, unable to eat a thing, constantly daydreaming and checking your phone every five minutes to see if you’ve received a new message: falling in love is magical.

Falling for you
Being in love, verliefd, is something you ‘become’ in Dutch. In English, you fall in love. As if it were something you have no control over, something you tumble into. Which brings us to a pressing question: is falling in love a surprise, something that catches you unawares? Or is it something you can make happen by looking for it?

This is the one
Finding a partner used to be something that could be arranged for you, certainly among the social elite. You didn’t decide yourself who to form a relationship with, it was decided on your behalf. Political motivations, religious origins and economic gain often played a part.

Taking the cake
There has always been some freedom of choice, though. In the 17th century, you could use a koekvrijer or ‘suitor-cake’ – a large gingerbread figure decorated with gold paper and icing – to show your love for someone. If the object of your affection accepted the cake from you, that was a great start. And if he or she then broke off the gingerbread suitor’s head to share with you over a coffee, you were sitting pretty. But if your crush broke off the legs, it was time for you to walk.

You don’t need a gingerbread suitor any more to find love in 2023. You don’t even have to go to the café or the supermarket any more. Tinder can deliver love straight to your sofa via your smartphone. Nowhere is the economic nature of our quest for love more visible than on dating apps. We scroll and swipe as if we were making a purchase, and the search area can extend as far as the other side of the world. While this might increase the chance of true love, it also creates uncertainty, choice overload and the urge to keep looking for something better.