Susie Lee and Katrina Hess, co-founders of Siren.
Susie Lee and Katrina Hess, co-founders of Siren. PHOTO BY LANCE MERCER

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Siren, a dating app designed by and for women, is closing its digital doors on April 7. Founder Susie Lee, a Seattle artist, entrepreneur, and Stranger Genius Award Winner, cited financial difficulties as the reason.

"The efforts of two co-founders alone were not enough to compete with the well-funded companies in this space," Lee wrote in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, this comes at a time when Siren showed strong traction—relocation and expansion to New York, the formation of key partnerships, and user success stories that let us know we were onto something special."

She continued: "We are enormously proud of Siren’s accomplishments and impact. One of our goals was to change the course of this industry—an industry historically run by men, rampant with harassment, objectification, and immaturity at every level. And as newer, better funded companies like Bumble and Hinge market themselves as relationship-friendly alternatives to Tinder, we can see how our early and persistent efforts to humanize the online dating space have influenced the conversation, and we hope this industry continues to grow in that direction."

Siren was unique in a world with countless dating and hookup apps. Rather than focusing profiles on a woman's looks, the app was a place where genuine conversations could flourish.

In a follow up phone conversation, Lee described Siren as the "vanguard" of feminist dating apps that actually give "women a sense of agency and respect—a radical thing in the dating world."

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Here's former Stranger visual art critic Jen Graves on how Siren was a meeting place of technology and art:

Lee thinks of Siren as a collaborative sculpture. She directed its design and function with a team of assistants, and now it's built by users and reshaped by Lee as she watches and responds to feedback. It's like marble-sculpting, she says, where she messes with it, then steps away to assess, then goes back in again. You might also consider it a performance, or public art, or architecture, and it fits right in with "social practice" art, where artists behave as directors who create situations where people interact under set conditions. ...

In the sense that it is ongoing and open, Siren is like a "happening," an art term coined in the mid-1950s to indicate art events that are similar to performances but usually nonlinear and improvisational, and blur the lines between the work of art and the viewer by allowing the viewer to use and alter the art. Another "happening"-like mobile app by an artist is Somebody by multimedia maker Miranda July. On Somebody (which, like Siren, is free), you write a message you want delivered to a friend, and the app finds a stranger in your area to deliver your message to your friend in person. July is legendary at instigating awkward situations, and Somebody is another form of her open-ended anthropology. Like Siren, Somebody is a playful stage for the meeting of two people.

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But Siren is based on the existing dynamics of desire and gender online; Siren is more about control.

Currently, Lee said she isn't sure what the future holds for her and Siren Design Director and co-founder Katrina Hess.

"The mission of Siren, which is compassion and humanity in technology, will definitely live on in our next endeavor," Lee said.