Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Presence Of The Absence

I was studying for my image test, googling the images of various artworks on the internet. Coming across more works of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a Cuban-born conceptual artist who had died of AIDS-related complications in 1996, it strikes me how poetic his works are.

Conceptual art is something I don't particularly appreciate, I don't usually "get" the concept and hence, am unable to feign an appreciation for it, even though it may be all the rage. But with the works of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, especially "Perfect Lovers", "Lover Boys" and "AIDS Billboard", the concept behind is simple. It is all about the special someone in your life. How you co-exist in tandem as perfect lovers, but when one of you exits this life before the other, the one left behind is akin to a clock that is ticking just a second slower than the other seemingly identical clock, placed side by side.

As installed for The Museum of Modern Art, New York
"Projects 34: Felix Gonzalez-Torres"
May 16 - June 30, 1992, in 24 locations throughout New York City

The "AIDS Billboard" is particularly poignant. It doesn't take very much for the viewer to "get" the message behind it. The presence of the absence (how I love the phrase) is clear for all to see. The image is pure poetry. The someone who was lying on that pillow, in that bed - all that remains of him is the memory left behind by the indentation. This absence is painfully obvious.

Like Gonzalez-Torres who grieved for his special someone who had died in 1990, we all have at one time or other, grieved for the loss of a special someone - a parent, a loved one, a friend, a relative. And what remains is the void left behind, the absence making its presence felt in our lives. Sometimes like a big gaping hole, sometimes like a almost-healed wound which doesn't quite completely close up and occasionally causes a prick of pain, reminding you it's still there.

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