Forging new ways of living, loving (& making art): the Barbican's Modern Couples, and Jon Hopkins' "Singularity"

Above: Jon Hopkins (music), Seb Edwards (video), “Singularity

Something in the air… (or maybe a rare leisure trip to watch The Wife and A Star Is Born…) But in any case, we found two examples of the power of creative couples this week. What might that have to do with an alternative to politics as usual?

Well, in our I - We - World model of citizenship, we assume that the power to transform or shape our conditions can come as much from personal strength, development or insight, as well as anything more collective/social, or an awareness of the systemic and global forces around us.

A dynamic, enlivening, supporting and chosen primary relationship with another adult can be one of those “I”-forces. It’s not required - but it could be an input. And we’ve come across two art/culture processes which highlight the variety of how couples can empower and inspire each other.

A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova

A. Rodchenko and V. Stepanova

First the Barbican’s Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde, a rich exhibition showcases the creative output of over 40 artist couples active in the first half of the 20th century. From the blurb:

Drawing on loans from private and public collections worldwide, this major interdisciplinary show features the work of painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, designers, writers, musicians and performers, shown alongside personal photographs, love letters, gifts and rare archival material. Among the highlights are legendary duos such as: Jean Arp and Sophie Taeuber-ArpCamille Claudel and Auguste RodinBarbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Dora Maar and Pablo PicassoLee Miller and Man RayVarvara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko; Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West; as well as lesser known pairings such as Emilie Flöge and Gustav KlimtFederico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí, Romaine Brooks and Natalie Clifford-Barney and Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt.

By focusing on intimate relationships in all their forms – obsessional, conventional, mythic, platonic, fleeting, life-long – it also reveals the way in which creative individuals came together, transgressing the constraints of their time, reshaping art, redefining gender stereotypes and forging news ways of living and loving. Importantly, the exhibition also challenges the idea that the history of art was a singular line of solitary, predominantly male geniuses.

Tickets available here.


The video at the top is directed by Seb Edwards, and is a rendering of Jon Hopkins’ Singularity track. As they describe it:

Hopkins: “The power of what he has done left me speechless the first time I saw it…He translated the themes of destruction and defiance that I fed into the music into a powerful, violent ballet between male and female and I totally love it.”

Edwards: “Singularity is such an incredible track, its merciless intensity somehow reflects our troubled times… I wanted to capture the feeling of defiance that rises from the initial brutality. The track is ultimately about acceptance and finding peace in nature. I hope I did it justice.”

We think he did… and you don’t need us to elaborate the metaphors contained therein… so enjoy.