All’s fair in love and art, even on tinder

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Sex in the City is nothing like Carrie’s world. Today, we use Tinder. Sign in to the app through Facebook, and greet the men or women who share your relative location. Survey their profile pictures and read their misspelled taglines. Swipe left to reject, right to accept. Mutual acceptance opens the door to chatting, and what could be a meaningful connection or (more likely) a one-night fling. Either way, the New York Times described the app as “clearly addictive.”

Swiping through straight New York men on Tinder can feel like a blur of baseball caps and tigers, the occasional bare-chested beach shot or bearded winter Instagram shining through. The tumblr How to Lose a Guy in One Tinder highlights the ridiculous nature of pre-hook-up “banter.” Still, hope springs eternal for everyone caught in the New Yorker’s paradox: we are surrounded by people but perpetually alone.

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Matt Starr, a new media artist, moved to New York in March. “I initially started Tinder because I was living alone. I was looking to make artist friends,” he said, adding: “I’m confident about three things: my hair, my lips, and my Facebook profile picture series.”

On Tinder, Starr pushed his confidence to the forefront. His four photos included the same headshot, but cut out and pasted on a bright pink background, or disembodied and sitting on a seaside swing. Then, to allow for the most matches, he swiped every girl right. “Very rarely did I swipe left and say no to anyone,” he said. “In the beginning, it was just about me making connections and networking. I thought this was the best way to network.” Fellow artists would compliment Starr’s “photoshop skills.” They’d eventually send him links to their own art. Sometimes he’d run into Tinder glitches and not only connect to girls in Bushwick, but also girls in Brisbane.

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Starr took screenshots of these girls’ conversation starters, which he’s now compiled and captioned to make the first ever “Tinder Art.” On a page of Starr’s website dedicated to it, viewers can scroll through to the tune of Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely.” The hundreds of comments range from “Are you a new age Magritte meets Rodchenko?” to “cool pics bro.”

The opening title of Tinder Art is “How to win Tinder,” and if getting virtually approached by hundreds of girls is the definition of success, then Starr is clearly doing it right. But more than that, Tinder Art reveals questions of originality, affirmation, and modern-day connection.

Was Starr so successful because he represented himself as non-threatening and different in a sea of selfies? He thinks so, and admits to his intentions. “I was trying to lure people in, but I’m trying to lure them to a playground, where I feel like other people are trying to lure them to a den, a lion’s den. Mine’s the monkey cage. In the monkey cage I want to swing on branches and throw shit on each other, whereas in most guys’ lion’s dens, they’re carnivorous and want to eat the girl’s meat.”

A lack of sexual agenda probably helped Starr’s mission of authenticity, too. Widening an artistic network requires more cultivation than aggression. And because Starr spent no time constructing a sexy facade, he was easier to approach. “I was literally walking through the streets, getting messages commenting on my photoshop skill or my graphic design. I laugh, because to me, graphic design is like, I know nothing about it. I don’t even want to know anything about it. I think naive passion will always move you in the direction you want to go in. To be more ‘you,’ more authentic. I made the photos for me because I thought they were funny. My graphic design just comes from what I want to see.”

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That is where, especially in the online dating world, most of us fork away from Starr’s approach. Instead of presenting ourselves naively, we take other people’s intentions and standards of attraction into account and adjust accordingly. That calculation of self can’t be right – it’s like trying to discern your body type in a funhouse mirror; the reflection you see is inherently skewed.

Starr hopes people who see Tinder Art will reflect on their own habits and presentation. “People who use Tinder, it’s having them look at it differently. To see these monotonous comments and dialogue, and just see one after the other after the other after the other, it’s a mirror for people to look at their interactions on their dating platforms, or their virtual dialogue in general.”

Though we’ve accepted digital life in many other senses, online dating is still a past-time filled with shame. Taglines read “I’m willing to lie about how we met,” and people are quick to come up with excuses for their presence. “My friend made it for me.” “I’ve only been on here for a week.” But especially in a city like New York, online dating is a simple, convenient reality. “I can meet girls in real life, I do meet girls in real life,” Starr says. “But for people who work all the time, this is the reality. This is how they have to find people, this is how they have to connect…People are on here to be loved and to be affirmed. Everyone wants the same thing.”

Whether they connect over surrealism or sexting, everyone wants to see “Congratulations! You’ve Got a Match.” We’re waiting to reveal ourselves like never before. Not only is an app like Tinder convenient, but it can be a platform to practice giving and receiving genuine affection. The stakes are low and, lying alone in bed on a Saturday night, we have the opportunity to be more charming and on-point than we could ever be when caught off guard at a bar.

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Starr has hundreds more screenshots he has yet to post (he’s still active on the app), but he imagines Tinder Art will move in different directions in the near future. Maybe he’ll collaborate with the app developers, or coach other online daters on their tactics. He may find a way to expand the project into a total experience, in the vein of his other work. To Starr, Tinder Art “justifies that I can do more than what I do, which is right now these large-scale installations and focusing on the ‘total experience.’ I added the built-in music because it’s asking for more direct engagement. It forces you to turn off the other music, think about the page a little more. If I could make the computer fart and smell of cherries and cocoa butter while you looked at this page, I would do it.” Here’s hoping the smell-o-computer comes soon; our love lives could use more online inspiration.


Check out all the Tinder Art, here.

text by: Ella Riley-Adams

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