Felix Gonzalez Torres: Perfect Lovers

 I’ve had a lot of people tell me that my tattoo of the clock drawings from Felix’s letter to Ross (which later became the template for Perfect Lovers’s physical execution) was depressing. But I’m just not sure that it’s being read the right way.


Untitled (Perfect Lovers)

Perfect Lovers presents two homogenous objects (clocks) that start off identical and are typically read as one single form, but whose forms slowly change from identical to perhaps symmetrical, to asymmetrical. (For the clocks in Perfect Lovers, one’s battery gives first and begins to slowly unwind). 

The work surfacely is read as a metaphor for death; two objects (surrogates for two lives) start together in love. The time set represents an epoch, where the two clocks are synchronized to the exact time, that ultimately serves as a metaphor for the beginning of their relationship. Then, however, as the clocks continue to work, one begins to lose power first as the battery slowly dies. The metaphor here is obvious: one of the lovers dies (whether of natural causes, illness, accident, what have you). Torres’ biographical life would inform and confirm this narrative: He had a lover, Ross, who slowly died of AIDS.

However, it remains unrealized to many that the work is representative of both measured and unmeasured time. That is, the clocks, when working, properly measure time, but slowly lose that ability as the battery winds down and remains unchanged. Clocks fall behind by seconds, to minutes, to hours behind and slowly it is realized that they may have not accounted for larger units of time, like days, weeks, months, and even years, depending on how long the battery has remained unchanged. Yes, this “loss of time” can be seen as a metaphor for death, in terms of the body’s eventual breakdown and subsequent loss of time in a very literal way. It could also be used as a metaphor for how little time makes a difference to love. This unmeasured time implies a lack of change and accountability; that is, it wouldn’t matter if the loss occurred a day or a year ago, the love was the same, because the dead are unaffected by time. In this statement, FGT is affirming that like the dead, love operates outside of time’s restraints. It’s not about defying death in a heroic act as much as it is about displacing current definitions of living and dead and their distinctions. That is to say, these aspects of living and dying are not as separate and distinct as we originally are told.

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