12.1 Place (pt 2 of 4)

I have examined the notion of attention widening through a street-action art work, which was made into the film What is Love? (2007; DVD disc of the film is enclosed to the [printed] thesis). I went to city centres in London, Portsmouth and Southampton, during weekend rush hours, and holding a small camera in my hands I randomly approached people who passed by and asked them the question, ‘What is love?’ (figs. 78–81).

Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

Figure 78: Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

Figure 79: Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

Figure 80: Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

Figure 81: Production still from the film What is Love? (2007). Image © Gil Dekel.

I did not attempt to invite people for a relaxed meeting of ‘tea and cake’ so to speak, but rather to ‘snatch’ people’s responses on the street, whilst they are not ready and cannot contemplate a deep reasoning. I wanted to see how people respond immediately to an immediate question. It is said that people ‘fall in love’, not ‘cautiously and slowly walking into love’, and in that respect I attempted to make people fall into their answers.

The choice of city’s shopping centres during rush hours was deliberate. In these places people are usually engaged with shopping, with buying things, and not with contemplating feelings. So people were not in a prepared state for the question. Moreover, I was very much aware of the phenomenon of sales persons approaching people in shopping centres, trying to sell something. I knew that many people would think of me as a sales person, which was an advantage in my experiment, because it meant that people would be completely surprised by my question. In that way I attempted to remove people from their comfort zone of ‘being ready’ for this experiment, and thus allow them to provide authentic responses. The responses could evidence how people see life, and how much value and thought they give to natural things in life, such as love. Responses also evidenced how people feel regarding being challenged.

In total 390 people were approached during the five days of the experiment (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th of June 2007). I have received 137 verbal responses, and another 60 body physical responses where people made a gesture as they passed me but did not say anything. Also, an additional 200 people ignored me completely, probably assuming that I wanted to sell them something.

In the editing process of the footage for the film I have kept this balance, to include those who answered and those who said that they do not know or do not wish to engage in conversation.

The answers ranged from affirming the importance of love (‘We cannot live without love. Love is very essential’) to a complete sense of unappreciation (‘I believe it is just merely a chemical thing’.) The answers are mostly short, since most people did not stop to answer, but rather were replying as they were walking about. Therefore it is possible for me to bring responses in full here, organised under dates and locations. Surprisingly, most people say that they don’t know or cannot explain what love is.

What is love? 1st June 2007, Southampton, outside the Art House:

I will have to think about that…
I wouldn’t know what love is.
For me, it’s I love you. Blast the world with love.
I don’t know…
Love is … I don’t know.
A good question.
It’s very embracing question… We cannot live without love. Love is very essential.
No. Good question.
I have no idea.
I don’t really know what love is.
I don’t know.
That is a difficult one.
The bond between a man and a woman.
Sorry, we are in a hurry.
I think it is wonderful. Sorry, we are in a hurry.
Oh man, I ain’t got time to do it.
Love is trust.
That’s really random…
Love can change oneself. It’s hard to describe.
Good question…
Oh, no…
I am quite in a hurry, so I will tell you some other time.
Love? to respect one another.
I am sorry, no time.
I believe it is just merely chemical thing.
When your heart going boom boom boom.
I suppose two people coming together and enjoying their company.
Harmonious integrity.
That’s a really hard question… Passion, isn’t it?
I don’t know.
No response.
Thank you…
Sorry… sorry…
I don’t know.
Who knows?
Don’t know.
I wouldn’t know at the moment man, I just got dumped by the girl I love!
That’s a silly question really, I feel like Prince Charles…
I don’t know, I am single.
Sorry, I am busy.
No understand.
I am twenty-one, so I wouldn’t know.
Love is … love.
A feeling that someone can give you.
Sorry, I am too busy.
I ain’t got time, sorry pal.
I have no idea.
I am not into love…
Love… it is one word.
Busy, thank you.
Love is the ultimate.


What is love? 3rd June 2007, Southampton city centre:

I don’t know.
Find out yourself.
No effect.
It’s giving of yourself.
Don’t really know right now.
We are in a hurry… we are just friends.
No thank you.
No, thank you.
I don’t know.
When two people want to share things together.
What is love…
Something that you can’t easily define.
You have to find it…
Wouldn’t know.
Sorry man.
Thank you.
I got no clue.
Love is the key to the universe.


What is love? 5th June 2007, Portsmouth city centre:

Oh… Lots of things.
Emotion, I don’t know, it something you cannot say really.
I talk to you later.
I don’t know, I will have to think about that.
Sorry I am too busy.

What is love? 7th June 2007, London:

I have to go to work, thank you…
Ah… No… I don’t know.
Ah… It means a lot of things, pal.
Pardon? Beautiful thing on the planet.
I don’t know.
I don’t know.
Too important for me.
Thank you.
Love? Never heard of it.
No, thank you.
Wouldn’t know.
No, thank you.
It’s emotion.
Oh, no, sorry.
Sorry but…
Love? Smile, wonderful, be happy.
…got to do with it?
Sorry… to be yourself.


What is love? 9th June 2007, Southampton city centre:

Ahm… Just a feeling, I guess it is important.
Sorry… I have no idea.
Who knows?
No, thank you.
Self sacrifice.
No, sorry.
Another time.
I am all right, mate.
I don’t know.
Fantastic feeling you want to share.
Liking a person.
Caring for somebody else I suppose.
It’s just something that happens, isn’t it?
No… I am not from here.


One may argue that the question ‘what is love?’ is a difficult one to answer without deep contemplation. Moreover, as one feedback (See appendix, PhD Art Design and Media, Gil Dekel) I received on the final film suggests, there might be an issue with using words to describe a state of emotion:

‘The question what is love, could itself frame the type of responses received. The question is formulated using language, concepts and in this way shapes the communication of love. The word love is a concept, the act of love, or experience of love is a state of being. Yet on one level we still need language to describe that state of being to one another.’

Another feedback (See appendix, PhD Art Design and Media, Gil Dekel) acknowledged that, ‘It is a very overloaded question really…’ but argued that even if the question is overloaded still ‘…the best responses were from people who didn’t know, or who couldn’t answer’.

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