I think we’ve all heard stories of people who had romantic relationships with inanimate objects. On a slow news cycle we’re sure to meet someone who is now married to a piece of architecture or desperately in love with an animated character. We think of this and wonder whether there’s something more to it. What’s the root of this attraction? While some choose to think of this as the result of possible trauma, perhaps the reality is that they’re not ashamed to admit finding these objects attractive. We’ve all seen a sculpture or a picture of someone we think is hot. We know it’s not a living, breathing, human. Yet we still consider this acceptable in comparison to finding other sorts of objects as sexual triggers. Which brings me to the next question. If a sex robot or an android is a simulation of a human, is it okay to fall in love with them?
Believe it or not, I actually began the conversation with artist Nicole Ruggiero on this note. When I first came across her works, I couldn’t help but think about the relationship between a human and an android. It’s been done in film and literature, but could it happen in real life? Ruggiero is a 3D visual artist who mainly focuses on the relationships and emotions between technology and humans.
“I would describe my visual aesthetic as clean but gritty. Digital but real. I think that I try to encapsulate the intimacy that enters the perfection of the digital space. The human emotions that invade the circuits. All of the relationships that motivated the creation of the technology in the first place.”
"Self-Portrait" (Ad Commission Mimicking Pulp Fiction Poster )
I asked Ruggiero for her opinion on how technology and social media have managed to take over our lives. It’s inevitably changed the way we see ourselves and others around us. There’s been a shift in our mode of romance and attraction. We can discover so much about our crush or object of affection before even talking with them one on one. Social media is the global yearbook where we turn into nervous pre-teens trying to create an entire personality based on a their choice of sharing Ghandi quote or a #blessed hashtag.
“I think that social media has the ability to quantify the competition we experience within the social sphere, and I think that our newer generations are becoming accustomed to positioning themselves within this sphere.I think that now the trick is to not put too much weight into numbers, because they do not necessarily indicate genuine relationships, which I think is most valuable and at the moment most unquantifiable. Isolation is a totally different topic. Similar to when we are in large cities, the internet may create a space that makes us feel alone, even though we are surrounded by people.”
"Virtually Real" (Collaboration with Terrell Davis )
"she was looking directly back at me and she said my name quietly…almost as if it was hers too…🕳" (Collaboration with Johnny Komar )
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by technology’s endless possibilities. There is so much and it’s so close, we feel like we can have it all. But then we realize that all this information, all these possible romances, and choose-your-own-adventure experiences require more than just our imagination and hope. We can have access to a person but still be far from ever meeting them or talking to them. Social media is a big tease: here’s the one who haunts your daydreams. There’s their likes and dislikes. Now let’s see them on vacation with their family. All this is available to you, and yet you’re no closer to being with them than you were before. It’s hard for us to imagine someone falling in love with a building or a car. Yet we fall in love with mirages all the time.
“The dilemma of choice when the numbers are seemingly infinite is unsurmountable and in certain situations almost crippling. I believe the solution to both of these problems is focusing on genuine connections rather than the sheer numbers that exist in the population within the social sphere.”
"tie me up daddy" (2018)
"limewire virus" (2017)
I asked Ruggiero about the idea of falling in love with a robot. There’s something about the characters in her works, that I couldn’t help but wonder whether someone had already had made a connection with her work.
“Sometimes I feel a strange sexual attraction to the avatars I create. It's not very strong, but it is strange to pose and fully control a naked and realistic human figure. I once modeled my impression Siri, who I think is very attractive, and I think perhaps many people, if real, would consider a relationship with her.”
"Downtown Manhattan Portrait" (Collaboration with 180.kg )
Finally, I talked to Ruggiero about this concept of technology being clean or perfect. When we think of design and functionality, we cant' help but believe that this is what it should be like. Perhaps we might even start believing that this marriage of beautiful and complex is what we should strive for. That there is something more desirable about a partner who is made out of plastic and circuits compared to one whose own biology might betray us one day.
“I think that the clean lines of technology can be deceiving and sometimes make us strive for a perfection that doesn't exist. I think that true perfection lies within not only designing these perfect lines and figures, but also muddying them with the realism of grit, dirt, dust, and honesty. I think it is more challenging to make a digital scene that is both clean feeling yet dirty, than to just create something that retains an artificially perfect quality that is inherent to the machine.”
"fuck it" (2017)
"ur my click-bait baby girl 💋" (2017)
Nicole Ruggiero’s work is an interesting perspective on how we see ourselves through technology as well as how we fetishize digital possibilities in search for a love that won’t leave or hurt us. It’s a reminder that our deepest desires know no boundaries. We shouldn’t be quick to judge the objects of affection of others, because ours are just as peculiar.