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Was ist Liebe?/What is Love? Exhibit Highlights German-American Relationships

August 2, 2019

© Lauren Karplus

“Was ist Liebe/What is Love…German-American Relations(hips)” is a photography and storytelling exhibit aimed at exploring one aspect of German-American relations that is rarely discussed, but is perhaps the strongest of all the Transatlantic ties: romantic relationships between Germans and Americans. The exhibit is on display for the month of August at the Illini Union Art Gallery at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This exhibit explores many aspects of these relationships; what brings the couples together, what makes them stay together, cultural differences, common threads, and how they decide which country to live in.  Nine couples residing in both the Midwest and Germany were photographed in their living rooms.  Next to each portrait, the story of their relationship will be told so as to tease out about what Germans and Americans in romantic relationships feel about one another on a deeply personal level.

What qualities do we look for in a partner?  To what extent do our cultures of origin influence our relationships?  What unique challenges might these transnational couples face?  This exhibit attempts to explore the funny, unexpected, and intimate ways we love, as told by the couples themselves.

Can’t make it to Illinois? Check out a preview of the exhibition below!

On where they disagree:

A:  Well, we don’t argue very much, so it’s hard to say…I guess the big question- the elephant in the room is- where are we going to live? You know, he very rightly wants to be near his family, and I want that for him, too. He also doesn’t have a really satisfying job right now, and that’s hard for him. I think it makes him feel restless.

M: For me it’s also having to do with the opportunities in Germany that sometimes- currently- have felt like they might be fewer than they might be in the US, and for me that’s kind of the root of the restlessness.

On what home-country values they hope to pass on to their son:

A: I think authenticity is very important in my family.  It’s very important to be real- not be fake, that sort of stuff. Maybe also a certain sort of modesty, not to be arrogant would be important to me.  Yeah.

M: I definitely want him to feel like anything is possible, because it is.  I guess I’m realizing more and more that there is something uniquely American in that the sky is the limit and if you put your mind to something and work hard, you can be anything you want to be.  There are any number of things that can make that seem not to be true. As naïve as it sounds- I do essentially believe in that. That’s the kind of signals you get as an American right away.  I’m also not cynical about that, I want him to believe he can be and do anything.

Photos taken by: Lauren Karplus, Education Abroad Coordinator, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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