“Untitled” (I was here) (Felix Gonzalez-Torres, part 5)

The soaring birds and gathered clouds of “Untitled” (Passport II) afford passage to another memorable installation presented at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in 1993 under the titles “Travel #1” and “Travel #2.”  This exhibition might plausibly have been introduced with the 1990 press release, for its components, like those of the earlier show, also evoke vulnerability and loss, the passage of time and the possibility of erasure and disappearance, the prospect of leaving this place for some other, perhaps better, place.  In the first of the gallery’s two rooms, viewers encountered a black and white photographic mural, its two parts adhering to adjoining walls, depicting a threatening sky traversed by a lone bird.

Illuminating the billboard-size image was the other component of “Travel #1, consisting of two intertwined strings of 25-watt light bulbs in porcelain sockets, extended from ceiling to floor and parenthetically subtitled “Couple.”  Like the synchronized wall clocks in “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), the entwined lightstrings tacitly suggest not just the passage of time, but the lamentable certainty of time’s eventually running out for one of the pair (or part of it) before the other, as its light yields to darkness.  [The certificates of authenticity for the lightstring works specify that “The owner must replace the bulbs as they burn out.  The piece may be exhibited either with all the bulbs off or all the bulbs on.”]

The work’s poignant reminder of mortality, our own and the other’s, orients the viewer once again to life’s limit, the border of death,

where we wait for each other knowing a priori, and absolutely undeniably, that, life always being too short, the one is waiting for the other there, for the one and the other never arrive there together, at this rendezvous (death is ultimately the name of this impossible simultaneity and of an impossibility that we know simultaneously, at which we await each other, at the same time, ama as one says in Greek:  at the same time, simultaneously, we are expecting this anachronism and this contretemps).  Both the one and the other never arrive together at this rendezvous, and the one who waits for the other there, at this border, is not he who arrives there first or she who gets there first.  In order to wait for the other at this meeting place, one must, on the contrary, arrive there late, not early.  [Derrida, Aporias, 65-66]

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Filed under Culture, Death, History and historiography, Media, Reading and writing

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