In Lyon, the Musée des Confluences hosts an exhibition that concerns everyone: an investigation into love and its numerous expressive forms, in constant transformation. Until August 25, 2024

From the first family bond to passion, from altruism to friendship, love touches the majority of human beings. A universal feeling, translated and interpreted in an almost infinite variety of expressions to which the exhibition “À nos amours”, at Musée des Confluences of Lyon, tries to give meaning, voice and form.

If the question that arises spontaneously is 'why give meaning to love?' we can find the answer among the new proposals of the multicolored display of the rooms of the Lyon museum.

The Musée des Confluences project was born from the adaptation and in-depth analysis of the exhibition “De l'amour” presented in Paris, at the Palais de la découverte, in 2019. In a completely new scenography, the exhibition today puts scientific, social and artistic theses into dialogue with human cultures from all over the world and other living species.

One word for the most complex bond

At the entrance, there is a graphic that immediately caught my eye and stimulated reasoning about the different types of love which, little by little, are proposed and interpreted in the installations. There are many loves, yes, but in most of the languages we know we define them with a single word, perhaps unconsciously flattening their depth. We call it love, while in Greek there are four words available and they help to give meaning and direction to different emotions: eros, passionate desire, storgê, the family bond, agapè, the disinterested love and philia, friendship, the social relationship.

Héléna Ter-ovanessian, responsible for the Lyon exhibition, compared to the previous edition here has involved three experts for a collaborative project: Manuel Valentin, African anthropologist, scientific director of the cultural anthropology collections of the Musée de l'Homme, Christine Détrez, sociologist and writer, specialist in gender and socialization of adolescents, teacher and researcher at the ENS in Lyon and François-Xavier Dechaume-Moncharmont, ethologist, teacher and researcher at the University of Lyon 1.

Videos, objects, works of art and interactive games

The exhibition itinerary, designed for free use, is structured around a central square from which you can reach thematic alcoves and interactive installations.

The video shown in the cinema, entitled “Parlez-moi d'amour” (I passionately recommend watching it), gives the floor to eight scientists, coming from sociology, anthropology, philosophy, psychiatry and chemistry, in an attempt to answer the crucial question: what is love?

The answers are analytical, contemporary and, precisely for this reason, engaging: it is impossible not to feel part of at least one of the situations mentioned.

The interventions touch on different levels of interpretation, the use of social media, for example, and in particular the habit, well-established for many, of taking selfies: do we publish our photos because we like ourselves or because we need the approval of others?

The debate around love therefore opens at the first sign displayed to continue and increasingly capture the attention and emotion of visitors, without any distinction of age, gender preference or origin.

In addition to the videos and various interactive games, the exhibition displays 150 objects mostly coming from the collections of the Musée des Confluences, but also selected from other cultural realities to illustrate popular traditions and contemporary works related to the theme of love.

Like “Sleeping Heart” by Annette Messager, a sort of heart-shaped sleeping bag: "The quilts, the sleeping bags, anoraks and down jackets are recent materials: warm, soft and protective cocoons. They take on all kinds of shapes and are with us day and night, on our clothed or naked bodies. They can suggest sleep, dreams or nightmares, love, sexuality or isolation ”, says the artist.

Or the series of provocative photographs inspired by the phrase "We don't have homosexuals in Iran", pronounced in 2007 by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University: in Iran homosexuality is punished by death for men and with flogging for women.

These are just two examples, but the objects on display touch on many aspects of love, from accessories used in history as communication codes between the sexes to lucky charms. To investigate the love between humans and animals and the different types of loving relationships (sexuality, reproduction and attachment) in animal species.

Communicating love, from the telephone to robots

Then there are the means of communication that allow you to start and maintain, even from a distance, a bond of love: in the contemporary world, the telephone is certainly the accessory you cannot do without . The telephone connects people all over the world, regardless of age and culture. It is, for example, a valuable tool for migrants who use it to reassure family and friends when they travel, to listen to music and words from their country and to share photographs.

Finally, the reasoning shifts to any possible links between man and electronic devices: a case in this regard which occurred in 2018 in Japan of a man who symbolically married a virtual singer is illustrated.

As disconcerting as the thought may be, artificial intelligence is increasingly part of our lives and robots, for some years now, have been helping to interact with people suffering from Alzheimer's: this is the case of Paro, a medical device that imitates the reactions of an animal, calming the patient.

In brief

Who is the exhibition aimed at: really everyone, because the theme is universal. The Musée des Confluences was created to bring science into dialogue with the aim of understanding the history of humanity and living beings.

Where the museum is located: the Musée des Confluences is located in Lyon (France) in the post-industrial Confluence neighborhood, overlooking the meeting point between the Saone and Rhone rivers.

Times and dates of the exhibition: À nos amours can be visited until 25 August 2024, from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 am to 6.30 pm, on Thursdays the museum is open until 10.00 pm .