Friday, January 22, 2010

Empty Bed

What's with the billboard of the rumpled bed off the High Line?

It's a 1991 artwork by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, writes High Line Blog, "best known for creating images that addressed his homosexuality and the painful loss of friends to AIDS."

W.M. Hunt wrote here about the empty bed project, "What was great about this piece is that as it was situated in the public domain without any explanatory text, everyone who saw it could interpret the piece differently... There was something incredibly sad about it. The implication to me was that now the bed doesn’t have two people in it. Something has happened. Something is missing. Something is absent. To me, I saw it as a testimonial to his lover, who had died."

But that was in the 1990s, when this image first appeared on city billboards.

the imagist

Today, in the High Line context, surrounded by glass condo towers and haute-couture, I'm not sure sadness, death, and AIDS would come to mind when you look at this empty bed.

It's more likely that you might imagine, as I did, that it's a stealth advertisement for Egyptian cotton sheets, or a luxury hotel, or Calvin Klein perfume.


Anonymous said...

It's more likely that you might imagine, as I did, that it's a stealth advertisement for Egyptian cotton sheets, or a luxury hotel, or Calvin Klein perfume.

sad, but true.

Barbara L. Hanson said...

That made me tear up. I did so much AIDS work, and lost so many friends. Well, all friends of the gay male variety, actually. Michael Callen, Carl Valentino, and on and on. When I think that if they had lasted a year or two more, and been able to be treated with the drugs now available...oh, never mind, I'm tearing up again.
(Ironically, the code word is "worsen.")

JM said...

Sorry, but what a pathetic footnote to this era. Everyone who bought into it should burn.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

There are only two ways to make indentations in pillows like those you see in this photograph.

1. The impressions were made by Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain taking a nap before playing Coneheads on Saturday Night Live.

2. The depressions were prepared by ad agency account executive douche bags.

Either way, the pillows are uniform in false sentiment – perfectly staged in parallel alignment to a brand new cotton bed sheet carefully pulled and manipulated into a precisely untruthful position. In other words, this bed was rumpled with the intention to deceive you.

This type of pretentious photography is like a Bed, Bath & Beyond ad gone bad -- when the original stylist is dumped because she’s a drinker and smoker and her rates are too high -- so the account execs styled it themselves, and hugged each other afterward.

W.M. Hunt isn’t right about much, but he is right about this:

“Something IS missing. Something IS absent.”

The totality of installations and images of Felix Gonzalez-Torres can be summed up in two words: lifeless crap.

If you lived through the AIDS epidemic, you know that Derek Jarman’s 1993 film BLUE was a sophisticated, powerful, deeply emotional film. The Felix Gonzalez-Torres image/billboard is the unnecessary, irrelevant, mass-market Hallmark card equivalent.

This fabricated image is DEVOID of feeling, which is why it’s so irritating to me. So many people died at home in their beds. Most didn’t die on a bed made with crisp, clean, brand-new Ralph Lauren sheets.

As an artificial billboard, this is one sadly appropriate backdrop for today’s Highline.

Meaningless. Easily forgotten.

dmbream said...

Made me think of this:


Leslie said...

years later, still no cure for AIDS nor any detailed investigation as to how it was possibly (not definitely) created in laboratories.