The exhibition A Question of Time (Wish You Were Here) presents three works by the artists Miroslaw Balka, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and Ceal Floyer. Each in their separate room, the artworks will inspire contemplation and reflection, with themes that revolve around life, death, and longing.
Miroslaw Balka (b. 1958, Poland) often uses his own body as a point of departure when working with sculpture. The title 60 x 20 x 14, 191 x 61 x 54, 191 x 61 x 54, Ø 30 x 44, refers to his own body measurements. The work consists, among other things, of two large crates made of rusted iron and terrazzo tiles. One of the large crates is open, and we can see that the bottom is covered with a yellow, rubber-like material that resembles skin. The other one has a lid made of terrazzo. The crates have a rough and simple design and resemble coffins. The sparse lighting and the arrangement of the coffin-like shapes bring to mind a burial chamber and illustrate our transient condition as humans. Someone who dies steps out of time. The rest of us remain behind with the longing and grief.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996, Cuba/USA) uses simple means in his work, light bulbs in simple porcelain sockets, and cord. Untitled (Ischia) is part of a series of works Gonzalez-Torres made between 1991 and 1994, which all consist of 42 bulbs distributed along a 45-foot electrical cord. These various works are reflections on people and places, and the title of this piece suggests a connection to the Italian town of Ischia. A feeling of sentimentality hangs over Untitled (Ischia), a reflection on loneliness and the inevitable fate that awaits the work. The light bulbs may symbolize electrical impulses in the body, which shows that when there is light, there is life. But it is for a limited time. An interesting point is that the artist encourages each curator to mount the work in whatever way they wish. In this way the work it is constantly being renewed.
The title of Ceal Floyer’s (b. 1968, Pakistan) work Wish You Were Here, cites a cliché that was often written on the back of postcards. By the time you found the card in the post box and read it, it might have been more than a week since it was written. Someone thought of you when the card was written. Are you still welcome? Wish You Were Here draws on ready-mades, such as Marcel Duchamps Bottle Rack (1914). It was exhibited in the same way; without modifications and stripped of its original function. Unlike Duchamp, Floyer has given his work a title that invites interpretation. In our day and age most of us no long send postcards. This unassuming work is a momentous and deeply poetic commentary on our digital age.
A red thread runs through these works. The artists treat very serious themes and do this with the help of simple means and materials. Both collectively and individually the works can be read as memento mori – Latin for “Remember you must die”. The light bulbs, the coffin shape, even the empty postcard holder talk to us about life and our own impermanence. The simple means the artists employ offer us as viewers a striking and poetic paradox; we stand before works that are complex in their simplicity. They allude to the concept that everything has its time. Everything is a question of time.