Untitled (Perfect Lovers)
Felix Gonzalez-Torres was a Cuban-American artist who's many ephemeral pieces were a tribute to his dead partner (Ross Laycock) and a commemoration of the many who succumbed to AIDS. In this piece, two clocks are side by side and both begin with the same time. However, as time goes by, they fall out of sync, representing the ways in which relationships change and transform over time (i.e., two individuals can start out in the "same" place but because of life, circumstance and chance, positionality and the dynamic of the relationship can shift and transform).
I think that this sends a really profound and important message. Because life is liminal and everyone will eventually die, an exhibit like this forces a person to consider their own mortality. Also, the perception that a relationship is supposed to last forever with two people growing closer together seems to be some sort of social ideal deeply inscribed into our consciousness. This, however, is not very realistic. Through time people change and are transformed by experience. There is nothing tragic or sad about this, it is just a fact of life for many of us. Though it may be a difficult issue to approach for some, this exhibit, in a sense, legitimizes relationships that are not permanent and that do end. Just because something does not last forever does not mean that it was not valid, legitimate or sincere during it's lifespan.
Works like this yield a certain legitimacy to love, even when it is ephemeral, but also death. They allow us to consider love and relationships in different ways, as well as life and living. Often as "natural" human processes, this exhibit also reminds us that the way we understand love and death and life and living are because of socially constructed mores and values, not because of some innate or intrinsic hard wiring.