The docu-fiction produced in Cuba portrays a cast of ten volunteers carrying out daily routines while answering questions about love and labor. Here, in one of the few remaining socialist countries, the members of the Army of Love describe an automated future in which distributing love will be the only form of work.
words by KATJA HORVAT
Oceano de Amor (2019) is a hybrid between documentary and fiction, set in Cuba, revolving around ten volunteers who were recruited to explore how the(ir) world would look like if giving and receiving love would be the main commodity, and all other work would be outsourced to robots. Oceano de Amor, with its vast cast, doesn’t fit the classic mold to the margins, but through a shared desire for happiness, the notion of love draws connection to the universal language of acceptance and unity.
Volunteers in the army respond to love based on the identity of emotions and not the visual narrative that has been created for them (in the real world). Even though primarily Oceano de Amor revolves around love, the concept carries a broader social cause, introducing new styles and new forms of how we receive and give love that can enrich and enlighten the social existence and conversation.
The army first started as a project of “fictitious” ideas, providing a context that frees you from the pressure to respond to others’ affections accordingly; some might rather give, others might rather receive. Love is established outside the economic exchange. Alexa Karolinski and Ingo Niermann first examined that in their film Army of Love, back in 2016. Through the implementation of love in such a manner, the movement then culminated, developing into a real community, seeking harmony through sincerity of love and the ability to match another’s emotions. “Now more than ever, the army is so necessary, as it is not just about the physical touch, it goes way beyond that. What drove us to then make Oceano de Amor is the examination of the rules, and places, in a society. In a society where people are now more isolated than ever; in a society that now gravitates more towards automation than touch… the army of love is an idea, it’s a starting point to think about why we need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance,” says Karolinski.
The army of love gives structure and unity to one’s life with its duties to self and duties to others. Emotions are positioned as a central characterization by bodily feelings of care and understanding someone else’s needs.
The exercises volunteers undertake provoke a great deal of vulnerability, resulting in an emotional release and the immediate feeling and idea of who these people are, and what they carry inside. Intimacy is an interesting concept when it comes to the army of love, as some get to their limits very fast, and it’s amazing to see how people try to break those boundaries, challenging themselves and their reactions. Oftentimes they literally rub up against one another in a mutual overstepping of bounds, indicating a common effort to push limitations, and disarm their emotional defense.
The army in Oceano de Amor, despite its challenges, lives life with a great deal of hope. In the film, they tell their stories through a set of questions which purpose could more be described as not the way of the world but the way of morality. “We gave them the scenario of post-labor society, which is interesting to do in a society that does not have a lot of automation. In a way, Cuba is closer to a post-labor society than Western capitalist countries. Because of its policy of full employment people aren’t too stressed by the fear of losing their jobs. Most are poor but at least they have time at their own disposal,” says Niermann.
Overall, Oceano de Amor gives love a broader context, as sometimes sharing it with strangers makes it easier and more sincere as there are no limitations in terms of care of/in perception. Love is not just a feeling or state of mind but an activity with a moral purpose. Its nature emerges as an impetus towards moral action and brings about harmony in the individual, casting the light on the other.
Alexa Karolinski (German, b. 1984) is a filmmaker, whose work includes music videos, commercials, film, and television. More recently, she co-wrote, produced, and co-created the Netflix series Unorthodox (2020).
Ingo Niermann (German, b. 1969) is a writer who lives and works in Basel. Since 2008 Niermann has been the editor of the Sternberg Press series Solution, whose last issue explores the biopolitical and psychosexual topic of love.
Cast in order of appearance: Shayra Gonzales, Angel Madrazo Batista, Ana Ibis Ramirez Cairo, Aidil De La Caridad Torres Agramonte, Cucu Diamantes, Dianelis Duany Perez, Yamel Robert Gonzalez Forment, Raul Cardenas Orta, Evarista Margarita Delgado Garbey, Ricardo Luis Solanelles Medina
Additional cast: Amanda Pedroso Viel, Antolin Ferrer Silva, Brian Orlando Triana Rodriguez, Georgina Rafaela Nembhand, Felix Abel Pérez Batista, Isabela Gonzalez Pernía, Leonel Zulueta Duquesne Saturnino
Interviewer: Dolores Mitchell
Music: Hannah Weinberger
Special appearance: Natalia Bolívar
Cinematography: Javier Labrador Deulofeu
Local Production: Malu Tarrau Broche
Supported by Robot Love, a project of the Niet Normaal Foundation, Castello di Rivoli – Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Fachausschuss Film und Medienkunst Basel-Stadt / Basel-Landschaft