BY hanna

Get Me LOVE: Penny

An interview with Berlin based artist Penny Rafferty on the subject of LOVE


Touring the streets of Berlin we are met by a diverse range of young people out and about, each with their own ideas on love and life. How has it been influenced by the variety of free spirits roaming Berlin, and in what way has the increasing rise in popularity of dating apps influenced the ways we are looking for love? In a world exceedingly connected through online media, how are young people developing new relationships, and how do they deal with their FOMO when they are caught up in a long term monogamous relationship.

We sit with Penny Rafferty in her flat in Berlin, she’s an artist and writer working within the moniker Omsk Social Club (www.punkisdada.com). We wanted to sit down and talk with her about how living in today’s day and age has shaped her ideas on love and relationships.

How would you define your relationship?
I guess I do have an open relationship, but I also think that for me that it comes from a very different position. In the sense that for me having an open relationship is completely critically to… to be able to be physically in interactions with others. Like, for me it’s much more important to have an open relationship because I think it changes your psychological abilities to form relationships with other people. So I would say it is an open relationship but I also think that that in itself is incredibly seeped in… It’s almost a term that is so generalised now that I feel like it’s not very formulated to me. Same with words like ‘partner’, ‘boyfriend’, ‘girlfriend’. I don’t think that people fit into forms.

Do you ever feel like people don’t understand the way you look at this?
All the time. I try to be as patient as possible, try to see warning signs early on, and I think also you have to somehow be careful of what you communicate, and take responsibility of yourself, your emotions and your output at all times. for me having these open relationships are so much more to do with my work and my artistic output and immaterial self, but also there are certain rules of course and maybe that’s also important that there have to be rules maintained between the two core individuals I mean I don’t have a polyamorous relationship. It’s a very different thing to be polyamorous to be open… I also don’t have a relationship where we talk a lot about our open relationship I also don’t have like a particularly highly tuned sexual open relationships with other people. So in that way I think it can be more difficult because it’s always emotional and always of the mind or it is always of the psyche but I think that’s also a safer place because it is more ambiguous.

So, are there any monogamous people left in berlin?
There are a lot more single people in Berlin than people with open relationships, somehow. Or that is my… I mean I also have a very limited scene. I mean definitely in the art world it seems like there is a lot more, either single people or people with long-distance relationships. Maybe that is also why it comes off as, or maybe that is why they become open.

So do you think that these kinds of relationships happen more in Berlin?
I mean, I would definitely say that there is a reason why I have been able to get to the point where I am, and that is because of people that are open-minded around me. I think that there is of course something quite unique in Berlin in the way that each scene is kind of involved or surrounding, especially if it’s political it’s all generally kind of pretty anarchic-left ideology. I also think that Berlin allows time for people to develop different identity politics. Because there’s not so much pressure to conform here. It’s, I think it would be incredibly difficult to find anybody that is not free-lance and doing something that they love to be working 15 hours a day, for example. There is so much time for socialisation here, and maybe that that actually creates this progressive way of thinking.

And through online dating?
I’ve never used an online dating app, the entire idea of that is totally devoid of like… (Sighs) I mean it is such an effort to maintain this. It’s also that I’m not the type of person who would date, if I’m drawn to someone that’s where I am and I can lose myself really easy to someone that way. And I feel with all these sorts of apps you have to be in a space of ‘maybe’ for such a long time , you have to fill in these questions, then you match, then you meet, and I don’t know maybe you meet again. For me it loses the entire chemical transaction that takes place, and that is probably for me what I’m most addicted to. I love falling in love, and I hope to do it for the rest of my life.  I don’t know anybody who has had a real date through tinder, and maybe that’s not the point maybe the whole point of tinder is to just have this mild flirtation, and the affirmation that somebody finds you attractive through your 120 characters, and that small moment of feeling appreciates is enough to get you through the day.

And how does that relate with today’s zeitgeist? How would you describe that?
I think the spirit of our time is (sighs) it’s so difficult give one… I think that we have become so de-compartmentalised, I think that there are so many slices of genre or beliefs and also experience in today’s world now. That I, I would say obviously that the spirit of our time today is more extreme right-wing but I would also say that that is an age range as well, of maybe something like 35 to 60. Whereas I feel that I have a lot of respect and hope for 18 to 25. I think that the digital age has opened a lot of doors and has allowed for a lot more communication and that allows for a more open standard. I also think that because these people of 18 – 25 they never really had anything, there is no job security, house security, education has always been expensive So I feel like it doesn’t render the same amount of hatred as those who are unfortunately in power right now and I think that I have some thought of nostalgic ideas that there could be an uprising

And do you experience an impact on the way we experience relationships?
I feel like, I think that in the future we would see a lot more gender fluidity.  I also think there will also not be the need for this 2.4 family structure and what I really think the crux of the situation is in the 1940s it was incredibly important to produce offspring, and live in these units. It was of course a very conservative space but it was the political way of rebuilding I guess. and now whenever you think about procreation you have to think about depleting resources, the world, the fact that we are overpopulated, the fact that there, without a certain amount of economic standing how could you even afford to procreate.

Do you think people are lonelier these days?
I think everybody is lonely I think there’s not enough time or space or information offered to us as society to really grow attached to the ideas of being alone so I think in that sense everyone is lonely because we don’t have the tools to practice our own ‘being alone’ . Unless you really try to. I also think that relationships don’t necessarily defeat loneliness in fact they can cut you off more than open you up.

Photos & Interview by Hanna Eenhoorn

Text edited by Abel Enklaar