Illuminated in the bright sunshine, Rotterdam’s metal heart shone out like a brilliant red beacon pulling me towards it as I walked down the quay. I’m not sure why the whole ‘love locks’ trend has become such a big deal worldwide, but there is hardly a city left on the planet where people aren’t busily disposing of their unwanted padlocks as an alleged gesture of eternal love.
It’s such a big deal that the collapse of part of the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris was caused by the weight of padlocks. Padlocks attached by those who genuinely believe padlocking a lump of metal to an inanimate object equates to a meaningful romantic gesture. I feel uneasy, if not downright queasy, that the padlock has come to symbolise love for a whole generation.
Unless you’re into that kind of thing, it isn’t healthy to put padlocks and love together. I prefer Shakespeare’s interpretation of love, delivered by his greatest doomed romantic, Cleopatra:
Eternity was in our lips and eyes,
Bliss in our brows’ bent; none our parts so poor
But was a race of heaven.
It’s hard to imagine Cleopatra – a woman who, upon hearing of Mark Anthony’s death, killed herself with an asp bite – padlocking anything to a bridge. But maybe I’m just being a curmudgeon?
Rotterdam’s answer to the Pont des Arts is the Lock of Love – presumably named after Dusty Springfield’s version of the Burt Bacharach-penned song, Look of Love – an art installation on the waterfront near Delfshaven. It was created by Dutch art collective, BLISS, and is made from heart-shaped steel welded together to form a larger heart-shaped seat.
It was officially ‘opened’ on – when else – Valentine’s Day, 2010. If you look carefully you can see the word ‘Bliss’ woven into the work; I couldn’t find the words ‘giant red cliché’ anywhere.
Its location overlooking the River Schie and the harbour of Coolhaven is romantic and dramatic. A heart shaped hole in the back of the sculpture framing downtown Rotterdam, passing boats and the Euromast alike. The authorities probably remove them periodically, but it’s still strange that there aren’t many locks on the sculpture. Perhaps Rotterdammers prefer asps.