Designer Emily Salinas addresses toxic relationships via Project Lovebomb

Part of Liverpool's Independents Biennial programme, Project Lovebomb, exposes a manipulative relationship technique to warn others. Creator Emily Salinas explains the thinking behind it.

Mural by Oskar with a K; photo featuring Caitlin Hare

Mural by Oskar with a K; photo featuring Caitlin Hare

We all want a bit more love in our lives. But sometimes, what outwardly seems like love is a double-edged sword. Inspired by the fallout from a toxic relationship, graphic designer and trainee sign painter Emily Salinas explores this topic in Project Lovebomb.

"Project Lovebomb is a series of interactive mini-projects I'm doing to reclaim my experience of being love-bombed into an abusive relationship," she explains. "For those unfamiliar with the term, love bombing is a manipulation technique used to groom someone into a toxic relationship. It consists of flooding the target with attention, affection and compliments. It's designed to hook the person in and make it harder to leave once the abuse starts."

It's a dark topic, but rather than dwelling on the negative, Emily's project takes a positive and constructive stance.

"I hated the idea of 'love' being weaponised in the way it is with love bombing," she explains. "So the project reimagines what love bombing could be if it came from a place of authenticity. It aims to reclaim the idea of love bombing from being something negative to something positive, as well as seeking to raise awareness about love bombing and other red flags. Hence, people are better armed against getting sucked into a toxic relationship and also to help abuse survivors."

Three-part campaign

Project Lovebomb is taking the form of two appreciation campaigns – one with a 'pass it on' component and the other involving murals, flyposters and an interactive element – running until 10 September in Liverpool and online on Instagram, along with an event in Liverpool on 9 September.

It's all part of Liverpool's Independents Biennial programme, a festival coordinated by Art in Liverpool in collaboration with Convenience Gallery. People from outside of Liverpool can get involved too, via Instagram.

As well as acting as a catalyst for people to show appreciation and connect with the people they care about, Emily's project also raises awareness about love bombing. It sparks discussion around abusive relationships to arm people against being sucked into one themselves.

Part 1: The lovebombs (until 27 August)

The project reimagines what love bombing could be if it came from an authentic place of care. This led to the idea of sending out appreciation packages called 'lovebombs'. These packages have a 'pass it on' component where the recipient is encouraged to pay it forward to create a "Mexican wave of appreciation".

The lovebombs are handmade and filled with thoughtful handmade gifts, a handwritten letter of appreciation, a personalised jar of compliments and a copy of The Happy News.

"The idea was inspired by a care package I received from a friend after getting out of the abusive relationship," explains Emily. "He included a self-help book that had helped him. As I was sending out over 30 lovebombs, that wasn't practical, so I included The Happy News instead." The lovebombs also raise awareness about love bombing through a project information booklet and by directing people to Instagram.

Emily is inviting people to join her in sending out lovebombs during this campaign. Guidance for making them using self-sourced materials is available on her Instagram, and she is also selling kits.

Part 2: The Appreciation Campaign (28 Aug-10 Sep)

It was the realisations borne from working on her first mini-project that led to the second, The Appreciation Campaign. "I realised we often don't let the people we care about know how much we appreciate them," she explains. "It's sad to say, but often we don't say out loud what people mean to us until their eulogy.

"So many people – myself included – carry this deep loneliness. You hear the term 'loneliness epidemic' being bandied around a lot these days. Maybe that's why we get sucked in by love bombing when it shows up; we're starved of that connection. I want to do something to help change that".

With The Appreciation Campaign, Emily's goal is to facilitate as many people as possible to share their appreciation with someone they care about while raising awareness about love bombing.

The campaign will involve murals and flyposters dotted around the city reading two key phrases: "You are appreciated" and "Tell your friends you love them". She's encouraging people to take a selfie with one of these statements, post it on Instagram, tag the project and a friend they appreciate, and say why they appreciate them.

Anyone who does so will win a free appreciation postcard to send to a friend, with space to write a personalised appreciation note on the back.

Photo by Tony Knox

Photo by Tony Knox

The first mural was designed by Emily and painted by Manchester-based muralist Oskar with a K. Other muralists that are set to paint murals for the campaign include Caroline Dowsett, Andrew Wolfenden ("Wolfie") and Becky McGillivray.

Emily explains: "I wanted to reach people who might never have heard of things like love bombing or who may not have much understanding of emotional abuse, or to reach people who may even be in an emotionally abusive relationship but not realise it though lack of knowledge about how these types of relationships operate. Often people don't search for this information until it's too late. Certainly, that was the case for me.

"This type of campaign has the potential to get people talking and be something that people would want to interact with and share on social media and has great awareness-raising potential since all aspects of the campaign ultimately bring people back to the project Instagram, which houses information on topics such as 'What is love bombing?' and signposts resources for support."

Part 3: The event (Saturday 9 September, Lovelocks Cafe)

The final part of the project is the event on Saturday 9 September, at Lovelocks Coffee Shop, which not only exhibits Project Lovebomb but will feature performances and artwork by other artists, performers and musicians responding to the theme of abusive relationships.

The event will raise money for workshops with abuse survivors at the women's charity Whisc. Emily will also cofacilitate workshops with abuse survivors at Whisc; dates to be confirmed.

If you'd like to donate to the project and help pay for the workshops with abuse survivors and the awareness-raising appreciation campaign, you can donate via the project's Go Fund Me page.


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