Ji-yeon Kim, a Korean Berlin-based artist, created her Tinder Project, which gained controversial discussions as it shows the people’s loneliness and identity crisis through the portraits of Tinder users. 

Nowadays there are more and more dating apps but one of the most popular is Tinder. For some people, it is just a good way to find a hookup, but for others, it is a resource to find a mate or just a friend. So for some artists, such as Ji-yeon Kim, Tinder became a profound subject matter, a way to explore themes of privacy, social media performance, and identity in a visual way.

Kim moved to Germany from Seoul, Korea, to pursue art full-time, and she didn’t have any friends when she arrived in Berlin. She decided to use some dating apps like Tinder and OkCupid to find friends and get a date. She couldn’t imagine that this will help her find a resource of inspiration as she found herself striking by the photos of people. Kim explains that in her opinion, all of the photos on Tinder profiles look active or happy but to the artist’s mind, these people have different feelings inside. Despite looking so happy, Kim thinks that many people on this app are looking for a match because of their loneliness and she can understand it as she started using this app because of her personal feelings when she was lonely in a foreign city.

Her Tinder Project takes real Tinder uses as inspiration: some quite literally as people can recognize themselves because these pictures were copied from the real photos; others are not easy to recognize as Kim combined aspects of different source image or exaggerated an original photo to create what she believed was a truer portrait. The artist says that she chose people “not because of a typical beauty but because of a special character”. The aim was to show the people’s loneliness and identity crisis. She says that the thing that was driving her was a passion for exploring herself on how she could portray humans in a contemporary manner. She investigated digital self-representation in order to understand how the photos, which are posted on Tinder, Instagram and etc, can reveal the real motivations, desires, and thoughts of people. Also, Kim explains that her wok let her question humanity and the perception of others. The thing is that in the digital world we can forget that we deal with real people, so the artist wanted to pay attention to this problem.

Kim has done these portraits on canvas and titled them with the person’s first name and age just like it appears on Tinder app, but actually she changed the real ones. To Kim’s point of view, new names and ages can distance the portraits from the original photos and models, and also they are symbols. She emphasizes that she did it not because of privacy protection. Although, she was questioned by her friends if she could do her project in terms of personal privacy rights and actually she wasn’t sure she could go as an artist. Kim says that she didn’t want to anger or annoy the users who became her models but she wanted to start conversations that “deal with how we all think about and use Tinder”.

Kim didn’t ask for permission to use the photographs so when she held a gallery show of the first 50 portraits at a Berlin bar, she learn that Berliners are ready to criticize art. Three of the people she painted recognized themselves and contacted her, two of them were surprised but they accepted her work, although one of them became really upset and asked her to remove his portrait, and when he described why it was hurtful for him, she did it. Kim says that nothing shocking has happened during the exhibition but there were some funny moments, such as the situation, when a few visitors recognized some of the people Kim painted and they said they went on some dates with them or others said that they would never show themselves like that on Tinder. Also, many people discussed the meaning of Tinder and whether the exhibition is absolutely stupid or an eye-opener. Moreover, some visitors exchanged numbers. The artist says that “it’s exactly what the title promises: a small “City of Singles”.

Kim is not going to ask permission for the second half of the series, even though she had several requests from people who wanted their own Tinder portraits. She explains that she just wants to show the beauty of people and she doesn’t use Tinder to make fun of people, as she is really interested in them. So when she sees an interesting face, she just wants to paint it and with Tinder she could choose models according to her tastes.

Despite not asking for permission, Kim’s ultimate aim is to make people think about the humanity and that we are all real people in the digital world. Of course, we have some personal privacy rights, but we should understand that if we decide to share our photos on the Internet, we should understand that it means that we give our permission to use pictures in different ways. So if such people as Kim find it as a resource of inspiration, it is not so bad.

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