Sandbox: We are young and we are friends of time, part II

Sandbox is a little corner of the web that is dedicated to Iowa City artists working to engage the public in an interactive environment. Find out more here.

A. is an artist and a friend of time. She sent me letters affixed with clock-face stamps, often fit with little gifts of images and extra texts, ephemera, during the time I lived in New Orleans. When you open a friend’s letter, she has arrived. You host her thinking in language. Friendship, so often about sharing a specific space, becomes temporalized. Or it is about space, too, but now within language, opening up to recollection of the spaces you once shared, descriptions of the cities you now live in, the rooms in which you write. You think of the city she lives in, which is a city you used to live in. The exchange belongs to past and present, to the future you write to in which your thinking might be included. She visits your city and you both speak of another city, one in which she lived when she was a child, one which you expressly want to see.

What does it mean to be in sync with a person for any duration?

The letters are a pacing.

I’m interested, as well, in how art is something shared between friends.

A. visited me the week after L. left, bringing as a gift a blank white, circular canvas that she had meant to make into a kind of clock. Its blank face in my studio now measures time opening endlessly out.

“Don’t be afraid of the clocks, they are our time, time has been so generous to us.”

I am a poet who has found art essential for a certain thinking-through of the specificity of being alive among these phenomena, feeling time. How might I write alternate descriptions of encounters with artworks, how they involve us, opening endlessly out? The other logics that are deployed, a piece’s generosity, how a thing in the world enabled me to think, to feel, to say a certain way, to float better inside an irruption of anguish, or to meet some sensation in an equally complex way. This is to be in supposition, conjecture, a kind of pleasure.

I’m interested, as well, in how art is something shared between friends. You build an archive of texts and films and experiences amassed over time in correspondence with others.

I remember A. would wear a watch with two clock-faces, each set to the time in a different city: the city we were in and a city in which, during the time she lived there, she had met herself in her own intensity. So the watch showed present time, representing a specific past time she was hoping always to will herself to re-enter.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, American, 1958-1996: “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), 1987-90.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, American, 1958-1996: “Untitled” (Perfect Lovers), 1987-90.

For me, Felix means A.

The piece goes: two identical battery-operated, wall-mounted clocks, set to the same time, placed directly next to each other, touching, by reasons of casual undoing, the exigencies of battery life, will fall out of sync and stop, one ahead of the other.

There’s the tension between the timelessness of the piece, as a concept, always deploying this elegant gesture, interpretable, “usable,” and the timeliness of the piece, its very specific historical context which one runs the risk of forgetting: witnessing the misaligned dying of lovers due to AIDS. So we might participate in the work’s generosity. But I do not know its precise trauma. Still, it manifests a powerful symbol about how any two people struggle to maintain synchronicity, inevitably edging out of time.

Curious what's happening this weekend? Sign up here to stay in the know.

It has been lovely these past few months, during my residency at PS1, to share my thinking in this space. I leave you with two gifts of words, below.

“One has to understand that love invents a different way of lasting in life. That everyone’s existence, when tested by love, confronts a new way of experiencing time. […] It is the desire for an unknown duration.”

-Alain Badiou, In Praise of Love

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Category: Sandbox
Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep it free.

Voluntary contributions from readers like you help keep Little Village free for everyone.

Please consider a one-time or monthly sustaining contribution, in any amount.


A collaboration between The Englert Theatre and FilmScene


Help us build the greatest small city for the arts in America—right here in Iowa City. Learn more »

Donate Today

Strengthen • Grow • Evolve is a collaborative campaign led by two Iowa City-based arts nonprofits, The Englert Theatre and FilmScene that seeks a major reinvestment to strengthen the arts through modern and historic venues, innovative programming, and new models of collaboration.

Little Village's

The results are in! Find out which of your favorite CR and IC haunts took home a prize.