Galleries house a very particular kind of cultural content, and within the ‘art gallery’ umbrella, different galleries cater to different audiences. ACCA might be a friendly neighbour to NGV, but nobody would mistake them for identical twins. Inviting a Tinder match who only knows me as a .jpg to meet me somewhere called ACCA to see a contemporary art exhibition about Feminism is a more idiosyncratic reflection of my character than suggesting we go to the pool. Let’s keep that in mind for a second date.
There is no abstract ‘the gallery’ in embodied and physical reality, just an array of buildings with a semblance of purpose and etiquette. Without going into too much detail, it is worthwhile to note that ACCA is a contemporary art gallery, and that the visual lexicon of contemporary art tends to be more abstruse than what we are accustomed to in the language of popular culture. And this is totally fine. Art doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be other than what it is, and we haven’t even decided what it is anyway.
So art does not always comfortably fit into the conventional criteria of evaluation, yet there is such a metric that is of particular interest to me in Giselle Dates: audience expansion. I apologise for seeming so conservative, but I am not talking about numbers, and I am not talking about the constructed consumer profiling brackets of market research. I mean people that would not have gone into see a feminist art exhbition had I not invited them there though a dating app.
However, I am not dating from the perspective of someone in the lofty position of spiritual sanctification through the divine grace of contemporary art. I'm not out to enlighten or exploit Internet daters. I am one. I really am looking to meet new people. I really am bored and lonely. If I suggest a place for a date and that place is one in which I feel comfortable and familiar maybe that’s ok because do you know who does that? Everyone. And in the case of heterosexual dating, the guys have enough access to spaces like pubs and clubs that tend to reaffirm patriarchal power relations. Just give me these few metres. These few weeks. It’s not that much to ask.
I first got the idea for this project after trying my hand at online dating and feeling stifled by how self-reflective I was expected to be and how repetitive my conversations were. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango and I would ask myself why I couldn’t just make the conversation more interesting: ‘you like words Giselle, go pick some nice ones to impress your new friend’. And my dialectic internal response would be ‘well, it would help if we had something to talk about other than ourselves. Some kind of conversation starters that could provoke our discussions about politics and aesthetics and philosophy and consciousness. Like, very considered stuff in a room, arranged in very intentional ways, and we could guess what those considerations or intentions were. I bet you could have some great first date conversations in a place like that’. Giselle Dates are not just about introducing unsuspecting Internet daters to contemporary art or even Feminism, it is introducing me to those people and in doing so repossessing the social and class connotations of 'the gallery'.