1979



INTRO

As I begin this essay, Art Gallery Ontario have supplied me with the 17 'I MET' lists that I've asked for re 1979. Such good news might have been expected, but the big surprise is that the NLS (National Library of Scotland) have liaised with the University of Michigan, and 52 'I WENT' maps covering 1968 to 1979 have dropped into my Inbox.

I've used the new 'I WENT' maps to correct something I got wrong at the end of 1978. But should I have done that? I want to preserve these essays in their original form, not endlessly sanitise them. Anyway, onwards to 1979, with both 'I WENT' and 'I MET' to hand. But first this email to David Fleiss in Paris, the collector who has an unopened copy of Michele Didier's 'I GOT UP AT' in his warehouse:

Hi David,

Just wanted you to know that it's now just certain ‘I GOT UP AT’ info I need in order to wrap things up for 1968-1979.

If you can help with any of it, that would be great, and if you do I will give you fulsome thanks in the text. If I had to prioritise any queries from the attached list, it would be the 1969 moon landing one and the final question re 1979.

Sorry to trouble you with this again, but I thought I’d keep you in the loop!

All best,
Duncan

I'm hoping that David Fleiss, who is a collector of 'I GOT UP AT' postcards, will be sufficiently intrigued to go to his storage unit and open his 12-volume package. I have to say, this is all coming together nicely. Almost as if I was plotting a novel!



ONE

In the 'I MET' list below, as before, the colour-coding is mine, though the names are courtesy of AGO:

January 1, 1979
(In Tokyo)
Reiko Ishibashi
Yukio Ishibashi
Hiroko Hiraoka
Fumiko Hiraoka
Michio Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara
Fujiko Hiraoka
Masaaki Hiraoka
Yasunori Hiraoka

So we are in the house that On had been staying at before the Hong Kong and Seoul trip. The house familiar from December 1970 and January 1971.

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Candida Höfer, 2005. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Everybody else met on Jan 1st was a member of the Hiraoka family.

Did the Hiraokas come
en masse to the Ishibashi house where On was staying? I think they may have done. The 'I WENT' just has a single red line which disappears off the right edge of the map with the words 'Tokyo Station'.

The day has two 'I MET' lists, the above one in Tokyo, and the second in the town of Kariya:

January 1, 1979
(In Kariya)
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara

Junji Kawahara
Utako Kawahara
Tone Ishibashi

I think the Kariya house must belong to On's side of the family. The home of Junji and Utako?

Clearly, On, Hiroko and Akito travelled from the Hiraoka family to the Kawaharas. That is from Tokyo (near the right edge of map below) to Kariya (marked with red pin) by fast train, passing Mount Fuji (green pin)
en route.

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The next day On sent off a postcard to young Lili Konig, reflecting that move:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

This is the only postcard I've seen from Japan in 1979, so I'm assuming that the address is that of On's parents


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Here it is from Street View:


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But our New Yorkers didn't stay there long. For again on January 2 there are two 'I MET' lists. And the 'I WENT' map (this one is published in
On Kawara: horizontality/verticality), implies that they went to the station, and travelled back towards Tokyo (right edge of map), but only after a trip to and from the town of Nagoya (left edge of below map), a city which is marked on the Google map, above.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

So here is 'I MET' for January 2, again split by On Kawara into two lists:


January 2, 1979
(In Kariya)
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara

Junji Kawahara
Utako Kawahara
Tone Ishibashi
Emiko Maeda
Yuzo Maeda

It's possible that the trip to Nagoya was to visit the Maedas. Anyway, let's get back on the bullet train to Tokyo…

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January 2, 1979
(In Tokyo)
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara

Fumiko Hiraoka
Reiko Ishibashi
Yukio Ishibashi
Koichiro Ishibashi
Michie Ishibashi

The presence of Koichiro and Michie means that all five of the Ishibashis that On and Hiroko met on December 20 have been caught up with again after the trip to Hong Kong and Seoul.

Next day:

January 3, 1979
Reiko Ishibashi
Michie Ishibashi
Hiroko Hiraoka
Koichiro Ishibashi
Yukio Ishibashi
Ayumi Kawahara
Fumiko Kawahara
Jun Kawahara
Ei Kawahara

What has happened to Akito? He is probably staying with the Hiraoka family. As for the Kawahara family, they would seem to be guests of the Ishibashis. As I said, I assume they are closely related.

Next day:

January 4, 1979
Fumiko Kawahara
Jun Kawahara
Reiko Ishibashi
Yukio Ishibashi
Koichiro Ishibashi
Michie Ishibashi
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara


Looks to me as if the previous day's meeting went on until after midnight, so when dawn broke on the 4th, the only new person encountered during the rest of the day was Akito.

On JAN.4 and JAN.5, On made Date Paintings, so perhaps the visitors left on January 4. I don't have a reproduction of either as they weren't the first Date Paintings made in Tokyo, there had been a few made back in 1971, so it's one of those that is reproduced in
Date Paintings in 89 Cities.

At the time of writing I don't
have 'I MET' lists for January 6 to 7, though I did put in a supplementary request for January 5.

January 5, 1979
Yuki Ishibashi
Reiko Ishibashi
Michie Ishibashi
Koichiro Ishibashi
Kazuo Okazaki
Tamako Okazaki
Yori Suzuki

New surnames, Okazaki and Suzuki, suggesting the family celebration is widening out. And both Hiroko and Akito are with the Hiraoka side of the family.

It may be that On, Hiroko and Akito flew back to New York. But my next glimpse of them is in Seattle. In order to know how they got there, I would need an I MET and I WENT for January 9 to 15, and I don't have those. I know I've been making a fuss about saying I've got all these 'I MET' lists and 'I WENT' maps, but I don't, not really. I've got the ones that I've asked for, but On made at least 365 per year, and so I just have to hope that my choice of 50-odd maps to add to the 100-odd maps in published books, covering 1968 to 1979, will be enough.

January 16, 1979
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara

As On had not visited Seattle before, it is reproduced in
On Kawara: verticality/horizontality:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


On didn't move far from his high-rise hotel that day.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


I wonder who in New York was entrusted with taking care of the baby.

I wonder if On and Hiroko were able to forget about Akito and remember the people they had been before their child came along.


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When On embarked on a Date Painting that day, was he simply going through the motions?

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


Did On Kawara relate to the headline? I think that's enough questions for now. Especially since I've just had an email from David Fleiss:

Hi Duncan,
I might go to my warehouse this week and will then check if the package can be open with no damage.
If it's the case I will be able to give you all the information you need, but again if I can't open with no damage I won't.
Best
David


I GOT THIS AT 14.11P.M.

DEC.13,2021



TWO

Back in New York, On Kawara resumed Date Painting. Two Dates in February, two in March and three in April. Perhaps that's as many as a dutiful father could expect to complete.

'I MET' adds to the story. I asked AGO for a few dates at random from 1979, including the first of April and May:

April 1, 1979
Soroku Toyoshima
Hirotsugu Aoki
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara

K.B. Hwang
Zoey Bruns

May 1, 1979
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara

Ann Usai
K.B. Hwang

For several reasons, the name that stands out is K.B. Hwang. From the beginning, On Kawara had tried to establish the full names of the people he met. In this case, Kyu Baik Hwang. So why the abbreviation? Possibly as a mark of respect for Hwang's professional status.

The same age as On, but not from Japan. Kyu Baik had been a successful painter in Korea by his mid-thirties, but went to Paris in 1968 before arriving in New York in 1970, specialising in mezzotint prints. I don't know when he first appears on an 'I MET' list, but he crops up on April 14, 1978, just after Akito's birth. As far as April and May 1979 is concerned, Hwang also crops up on April 8 and 28, and May 26 (I'm told by AGO). A close friend, I would say. Especially when you realise what kind of work he made. The mezzotint below,
The Moon in a Tent, is from 1979:

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K.B. Hwang, 1979, Moon in a Tent.

The moon is a common motif in Hwang's work. The same moon that is alluded to in On Kawara's best known work from 1969, the moon landing triptych. Though Hwang's moon has an entirely different, ethereal presence:

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K.B. Hwang, 1983, Tree and Handkerchief

The moon is behind the handkerchief and the tree is in front of it. The tree, the handkerchief and the moon are all printed onto canvas. The incorporation of nature into the human world. How far is it to the moon? Hundreds of miles or a few inches?

In the image below, I've taken the liberty (gulp!) of adding a date from the Apollo 11 mission.

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K.B. Hwang, 1981, Moon and Box.

The boxes that On Kawara made for JULY16,1969, JULY20,1969 and JULY21,1969 were not big enough to contain the huge paintings themselves. But they were able to fit daily newspapers from that famous time. The paintings were shown by On Kawara in solo shows he initiated in 2008, 2012 and 2014, and he helped design the white cube (a kind of box) in which the moon landing paintings now hang in the Glenstone Museum.

Much for On Kawara and K.B.Hwang to talk about. Not just moon talk. Postcard talk too. Again, I've added a layer to this already multi-layered image, called
Tortoise and Hare

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K.B. Hwang, 1983, The Tortoise and the Hare

Not only is there a timepiece in the above image, but a reference to a circuit, drawn by a pencil. Did Hwang see himself as the tortoise to Kawara's hare, or vice versa? I have a feeling that the two joked about each other's work, while holding deep admiration of it. Though I have no evidence for that. Unless these allusive images count as evidence

I wonder if Hwang ever received any postcards from On Kawara. I would not be surprised if he did. And that he or his family still owns them. Kyu Baik Hwang has a website which reproduces much of his work. It also shows him amongst what I presume are younger members of his family.

K.B. Hwang returned to Korea, and to painting, in 2000, and seems to have had a particularly productive spell since 2019. How about the painting below as a tribute to On Kawara? Though of course the 'I GOT UP At' line has been added by me. How could I resist it?

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K.B. Hwang, 2019, Sunflower

This powerful painting can be seen, without my additional line of text,
here.

Reverting to this particular 'I MET':

May 1, 1979
Hiroko Hiraoka
Akito Kawahara

Ann Usai
K.B. Hwang

I happen to have 'I WENT' for that day, courtesy of
On Kawara: SILENCE. On didn't go far that day. So let's track him.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


Out of the flat on Greene Street and into what may be another flat on West Broadway. Given the small number of people met that day, this could be where K.B. Hwang lived.

I have asked Kyu-Baik Hwang about his relationship with On Kawara, but I don't expect to be receiving an answer anytime soon. I hope I'm wrong.




THREE

A postcard was sent to Jean Pfaff for 69 days in a row, starting with April 13, 1979. At the time, Jean Pfaff was living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, so he may have been met in 1973 when On Kawara was in Nova Scotia at the invitation of Kasper König and the Nova Scotia School of Fine Art. I have asked Jean a few questions and he has let me know he will be writing to me.

In the meantime, let's bash on. Here is an image of those cards:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Though most of them represent New York, some of them suggest that On took a trip to Europe in May. The 6th and 7th cards (in row two of the above image, and row one of the detail below) represent London, and the fifteen cards or so after that are all (I suspect) of Munich, Germany.

4IYXSOD%QgK4iCpz9Gaqfw_thumb_ddde
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

A quick visit to the Logsdails in London and a longer visit to the Königs in Munich? I expect it was because the family had moved to Munich that the link with Rüdiger Schöttle's Gallery was established. If you recall, two massive paintings from 1978 were shown there in spring 1979, though On Kawara was not in Europe in time to see them.

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One can see that On Kawara was in Munich on May 10, as the message side of the postcard tells us. I asked AGO for the 'I MET' for May 12, 1979, and this is what I was sent. I have colour-coded the König family:


May 12, 1979
Christa Meier
Lili König
Hiroko König
Leo König
Kasper König

Rüdiger Schöttle
Brygida Ochaim
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg

Why did I ask for May 12? because I already had 'I WENT' for that day, courtesy of the 2002 Phaidon volume.

Who is Christa Meier? I don't know. Who is Brygida Ochaim? An artist and dancer. It seems she has associations with Rüdiger Schöttle. Her present website suggests Marrtiusstrasse 7 as her imprint's address, which was the address of the Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery in 1979.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It's not obvious, but On Kawara stayed at Tengstrasse 22, that is the top left part of his route. Though he did visit the Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery, which is top right of the map.

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Would that have been the König family home? I imagine On was in Europe to further his art business, but by staying in Munich for such a long time, it was obviously taken as an opportunity to be with his friends, the Königs. After all, the artist did no Date Painting until he got back to New York and made MAY 22,1979. So it's a shame that Akito and Hiroko were not accompanying him. However, it is probably best not to inflict too many transatlantic flights on a one-year-old baby.

On May 12, the main visit seems to have been to the Deutsches Museum. This is a technology and science museum, and I imagine the K
önig family accompanied On. It is also possible that On Kawara split his day into three separate phases. A visit to the Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery. A visit to the König family home. And a visit to the Deutsches Museum.

I will leave Munich for the moment, in the knowledge that On returned there a few months later and I have more 'I MET' information about that time. In the meantime, Jean Pfaff has written again and I must incorporate his story:

Good morning, Duncan,

I never met On Kawara in person.

In 1977 I received a scholarship through the Canada Council. I decided to go to college in Halifax, where I was until 1978.

In 1969 I visited the legendary exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern. "When attitudes become form" by H. Szeemann.

There I encountered the works of On Kawara, among others, which impressed me greatly.

In the library at the college, I rediscovered in 1978 the catalogue from Bern I had at the time. In this catalogue, there were postcards from Halifax by On Kawara. I looked for them on the spot and sent them to him in New York on the relevant days - as a reference and memory, so to speak.

My text was: "In memory to your postcard from the …….., Halifax, ………1973“

I must briefly interrupt Jean here, to clarify a couple of things. First, it is interesting that there was group show at Bern as early as 1969 that involved On Kawara. It may partly account for why he got the solo show there later. Second, it must have been the catalogue to that solo show, One Year's Production, that Jean Pfaff came across in Halifax, because it is there where ten postcards are reproduced, sent by On Kawara while staying in Halifax.

So let’s see if I’ve got this right... Jean found the same postcards, or of the same architectural subjects, and sent them to On Kawara on the same days in 1978 (April 4 to April 13) as On had sent them off to recipients in 1973? I wonder if Jean added his getting up time. Perhaps there would have been no need to go that far, the place and time would have been enough. I am not surprised that On responded in such a generous way. It is what artists want - an audience to engage with their work.

Back to Jean's email:

Then I went for some weeks to Vancouver and Alaska. When I came back to Halifax, the mailbox was full of his postcards from the "I got up..." series.

In 1979 I exhibited his series and my short written statements about my places at the same dates in the Krebs Gallery in Bern. In addition, I received 2 telegrams from On Kawara from the series "I am still alive“.

The whole series of postcards and the two telegrams were exhibited and published a few years ago in the exhibition at MOMA. A few years ago I sold these works through Christies.

I still have a telegram from Mexico City by On Kawara from 1984. This one does not belong to any series. If you like, I can send you more details about it.

I have always been fascinated by On Kawara's work and his concepts - simply great.

If you want more information about any of this, let me know.

I write to Jean, covering my earlier point. Then add:

'A second date issue: I thought the postcards that you received were all in 1979. Did you get some in 1977 or 1978 as well? The ones that filled your mailbox when you returned to Halifax? I will see if I can find out anything online about the show at Krebs.

I would be fascinated to know more about the telegram from 1984. Could you send me a scan? When On stopped doing his 'I GOT UP AT', 'I WENT’ and 'I MET' in September 1979, he plunged his life into mystery. I am trying to think about how to deal with the subsequent years from a biographical perspective.

Glad to be in touch with a fellow On Kawara admirer. I have a feeling his reputation will grow over the next hundred years.

All best wishes, Duncan

Actually, what I really like about Jean Pfaff's story is how it begins in 1969, takes in 1973, becomes complicated in 1978, and is brought to a head in 1979. The same year so much else in On Kawara's life comes to a climax.

Jean Pfaff never met On Kawara, but they both knew Bern and Halifax. What's more, 'JEAN IS STILL ALIVE'.

Let's bring K.B. Hwang into this mutual celebration of life:

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K.B. Hwang, 2021, Mailbox



FOUR

Back in New York, On Kawara made two Date Paintings in late May, four in June, two in July and three in August. And all the while preventing Akito from eating any acrylic paint.

Here is the set-up during the painting of June 28, 1979. That is, his studio at 140 Greene Street. Note, the paraphernalia relating to 'I GOT UP AT', 'I READ' and 'I WENT'. Oh, and he is still a right-handed smoker.


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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I don't know who got the postcards (two piles at left edge of photo) in late summer. I know that the Kawaras went to Nova Scotia in July or August, having been told this by Ansell Bray when I was in touch with him a few months ago. Let me put the story together from his emails.

July 1, 2021: Ansell Bray to me:
'Dina and I moved to 114 Mercer Street in 1975, which is one block over from Greene Street. We saw the Kawaras frequently in those years with the Iharas as we all had children at the time. It was in 1977 that On started sending me the 'I Got Up' cards from Germany. In the summer of 1979, On and Hiroko came to Cape Breton again. As before we met at the Marquis of Duffrein and went to Ecum Secum. After we got to Cape Breton, On discovered he had lost his green card, a disaster which would have prevented him from returning to the U.S. He drove all the way back to Ecum Secum and found it still there on a table in a road-side Provençal park ! Then back to Margaree, a round trip of around 400 miles.'

In the map below, the place where On Kawara left his green card is bottom left, the place that Ansell, Hiroko and Akito waited nervously for On is towards the top of the map. Those are the two principal salmon fishing spots of On's life.

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Ansell to me (cont.): 'Hiroko and Akito did not go and stayed with us until he got back. They stayed in Margaree for a week or so and had great fishing. Hiroko caught a salmon (I have photos) and On who was famously a rather dour, low-key sort came back one morning with a huge smile on his face which lasted for days. He had caught a 12-pound salmon on a dry fly in the Red Bank pool.'

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Me to Ansell Bray: 'Great anecdotes. Though Jonathan Watkins told me that On was a cheerful guy and laughed a lot!'

Ansell Bray to me: 'Don’t get me wrong. On was always a pleasant, affable guy, but the day he caught the salmon brought out an exuberance I had not seen before.'


July 5, 2021. Ansell to me:
'The whole Kawara family came to Margaree in 1979. It was in July or August. I have a photo of Dina lying on the grass with Akito in the background. They stayed at Laird and Mary Hart's cabin on Lake O' Law brook. Aoki also came up while they were there. I think he flew up and we got him at the airport but I really can’t remember that in detail.'

I've marked Lake O'Law and the airport on the map, below. Not forgetting Red Bank Pool. I like to think On would have taken Aoki to the very spot that he landed the fish.

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The 'I WENT' and 'I MET' documents would confirm much of that, but I am not going to specially ask for the material at this stage. I don't want to ask for too much. Besides, I believe Ansell's recollection will be accurate. I wonder who the postcards were going to at this time. Six years before, one of them had gone to Jost Herbig:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The big change in those six intervening years was the coming of Akito. On and Hiroko did not visit Cape Breton again, in spite having enjoyed themselves and the fishing. According to Ansell, after 1979 they spent summers in Japan, so as to give Akito and his sister (born in 1980) a dual American/Japanese upbringing.

Which implies that the first salmon On caught was also his last. Though I've feeling he fished for salmon in Iceland in the 1990s, in the presence of Pétur Arason, so he might know otherwise.



FIVE

Let me return to the photograph made in On Kawara's studio on June 28, 1979. Below is a detail from it. This includes the date stamp which On would use on his postcards, resting on an ink pad. It also includes what I take to be the box of metal letters that On would arrange in rows to create the other bits of information that he would stamp onto the cards. That is close to another transparent-lidded box which contains airmail postage stamps and perhaps another made-up ink-stamp.

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On is about to lose the briefcase that contains these essential tools of his trade. And, unlike with the green card, he is not going to get it back. But let me tell the story in as much detail as I can muster, for it marks a turning point in the life and work of On Kawara. The absolute glory years are about to end.

September. On takes another trip to Europe. He makes a Date Painting on September 4 in New York. And he makes one in Munich on September 12. That is five days before the loss of the stamps for 'I GOT UP AT', 'I MET' and 'I WENT'. It goes without saying that I have obtained much of the 'I WENT' and 'I MET' material for the last week, before it all stopped. Just in case the disappearance of the briefcase was an inside job.

What do I mean? A four-hour solo trip in the car would be plenty time for On to think if his relentless schedule was short-changing Hiroko and Akito. Likewise, Hiroko would have a long time to think about the same thing.

September 10, 1979
Inge Conrad
Kasper König
Rüdiger Schöttle
Brygida Ochaim
Lili König
Leo König
Hiroko König
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg

Christel Sauer
Marc Gaberthuel
Sybille Boppart
Laszlo Glozer

So, by September 10, On was in Munich. He was in Kasper K
önig's company in the week before the briefcase was stolen. Significant or not?

September 11, 1979
Rüdiger Schöttle
Brygida Ochaim
Kasper König
Inge Conrad
Hiroko König
Leo König
Lili König
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg

Laszlo Glozer
Magda Moses

It's possible that Hiroko had written to Kasper telling him about her (hypothetical) concerns. Maybe Kasper had concerns of his own. They had more than ten years of postcards, maps and lists of people met at their disposal for future shows. Any more might start to be counterproductive. Less is more? Yes? Rare is fair. True?

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I don't have 'I MET' for September 12. But I did ask AGO which of those days in September, Kasper König crops up. And the answer is September 10, 11, 13 and 14.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Anna Astner got one of the two postcards throughout September, up to and including the last one sent on September 17. Who was she? I mean who was she in On Kawara's life? I will ask Ansell Bray but I have not heard from him for month or two. I hope he is in good health..

I am hoping that David Fleiss will be telling me who got the other card in September. If it was Kasper König, then that could suggest a plot between On and Kasper. Rather an easy one to work out, which may be why the info (about who was being sent the 'second' postcard) is not readily available at the moment.

The address given for On in Munich is that of Rüdiger Schöttle's Gallery, this time around.



UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_dcf5
Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

September 13, 1979
Rüdiger Schöttle
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg
Brygida Ochaim
Kasper König
Gerhard Merz
Edda Köchl

Gerhard Merz is a very successful German modernist painter. He exhibited four times in a row at Documenta in Kassel, and designed the German Pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 1997.

That last name is significant. Edda Köchl would become Kasper König's second wife, and Kasper would live with her in Cologne, where they would have one child, Johann.

Next day's list contains the same names, less Ilka. It is perhaps difficult to keep two wives in your immediate circle, yet keep them apart.

September 14, 1979
Edda Köchl
Kasper König
Gerhard Merz
Rüdiger Schöttle
Brygida Ochaim

It seems that on September 14, On left Munich for Stockholm. The trip was bound to have been discussed by Kasper and On. On was going to meet (as we'll see) Björn Springfeldt, the senior curator at Museet Moderna. A solo show for On Kawara was being planned for 1980, which would tour to other major galleries. This was to be On Kawara's third major show. The first in Bern, put together by Kasper, concentrated on 1973's production of Date Paintings and the three self-observation series. The second had been at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, focusing on three months of daily Date Painting in 1970. Bjorn Springfeldt and his assistant, Milla Tragardh, who he would go on to marry in 1983, met On Kawara the day he went to the top of the highest building in Paris and looked down on the world. I don't suppose they went up to the top of Montparnasse Tower with him, but then why do I say that? Because it suited my muse? Because if it had been me I would have gone up on my own?

So this was to be a third large solo show for On Kawara. I've no doubt Kasper K
önig was thinking strategically about it. I'm wondering if he'd come to the conclusion that after more than ten years it was time to pull the rug on 'I MET', 'I WENT' and 'I GOT UP AT'.

KK: "How many postcards have you sent?"

OK: "Over 7000."

KK: "We would stand a good chance of calling them back for an exhibition. But if you keep sending them out, we could lose control."

OK: "I am not sending out postcards to further my art career, but to live my life and my art to the fullest extent."

KK: "Also, On, it could present problems for me if Ilka and Edda see their names on the same 'I MET' list. Did you not think about that yourself when you typed out the other day?"

OK: "I have not yet typed out the list for September 13."

KK: "Something for you to think about."

By the morning of the 15th of September, On Kawara was on a boat and travelling amongst the many islands around Stockholm. Such sailing is a way of life among the inhabitants of that city. He was accompanied by Bjorn Springfeldt and his partner, a fellow curator from Museet Moderna.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I have to say that this postcard is reminiscent of a mezzotint by K.W. Hwang. Maybe Kyu-Baik was getting the other postcard at this time. Or maybe he was closely associated with Anna Astner and so knew about this one, which was the third last postcard of the 'I GOT UP AT' series.

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K.B. Hwang, Swans, mezzotint.

On the morning of the 15th, On Kawara got up from sleeping on a boat called the Elin, which was moored at Betson.

September 15, 1979
(In Betsön)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh

As I say, Björn and Milla are curators from the Moderne Museet, Stockholm, who On had first met in December 1971 and who had been involved in the show at the Pompidou Centre. Björn had been promoted at the Moderna Museet when Pöntus Hulten, its then director, had moved to the Pompidou. And Bjorn took over as director himself a few years later. He would have been a close colleague of Kasper König and would have been in on the discussions around On Kawara.

BS: "Any luck with On?"

KK: "I have been working on him. You must work on him when you get him up in Stockholm."

BS: "We plan to take him on a cruise amongst the islands. Get him super relaxed and amenable."

KK: "Good plan."


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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It looks as if On took careful note of the boat's route. The red line on the above map is not a vague scribble. It knows on which side of each tiny island, each minuscule rock, the craft passed.

BS: "You would enjoy the cruise more if you didn't have to trouble yourself over our route."

OK: "It is no trouble."

All on board might have enjoyed the cruise more if they'd been able to access a bird'e eye view of their course, as one can courtesy of Google in 2021. This shows where they moored one night, and where On Kawara GOT UP on September 15.


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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Below shows where the boat was relative to Stockholm. Not far away from the city, amidst a myriad of islands. It strikes me that On Kawara might have noted similarities between Stockholm on the north edge of Europe and Venice on the southern edge.

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On created two maps for September 15, and two 'I MET' lists. Though the second 'I MET' list is identical to the first:

September 15, 1979
(In Halsingholmen)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh

So now we get to the penultimate day:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara alone and doing what he did best. Soaring aloft.

Well, not quite. I mean, not quite alone:


September 16, 1979
(In Halsingholmen)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh

The 'I WENT' for September 16th, shows that On Kawara 'GOT UP' on the
Elin, moored on the south side of an island. And that during the day's sailing the boat called in at two other islands before heading back towards Stockholm.

Regard this minimal and precise map of three stops:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

BS: "So let's see. You had to draw up two lists of 'I MET' yesterday, because we moved out of one area into another."

OK: "Two 'I MET' lists and two 'I WENT' maps."

BS: "And you'll have to produce the same today I expect. Hardly seems worth it, does it?"

OK: "You have been talking with Kasper."

I expect On Kawara had a suitcase and his attaché case on board the boat. I expect he used the ink stamps on his postcards, ready to post them when he got back to Stockholm. But the truth is that the 'I WENT' map and the 'I MET' list would be done in retrospect, when he got to a base in Stockholm. Though On Kawara would make rough notes of both so as to ensure accurate finished sheets.

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The island in the middle of the above image is where the Elin moored overnight. Although there is no Street View available from Google in this area, there is the odd shot that's been taken on the islands. Such as this one, below. Wilderness or paradise? - you decide.


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The Elin stopped at couple of islands during the 16th. Firstly, it moored on the south coast of this island, below, in the bay close to the right edge of the photo.


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Below is another shot typical of the environment. One almost expects the head of Dan Graham to emerge from the water. His mission? To steal On Kawara's briefcase and deliver it to his boss, a mysterious man known simply as KK.

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Meanwhile, On Kawara was innocently on the lookout for local wildlife. Next stop was a nature reserve, see below, so perhaps he got a glimpse of the white-tailed eagle that was featured on his postcard for the day, the penultimate day.

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Over their three days together, Bjorn and Milla would have observed On at work and play. How could they not have been impressed?

Bjorn Springfeldt: "Though I've been aware of your work for a long time, it's only really come together in my head during this trip. What an extraordinary
oeuvre! On the one hand, it is completely different from anything anyone else does. And on the other, you've been doing it with a commitment that no-one else comes close to. Originality and resilience is a rare combination."

On Kawara: "You are very kind."

Bjorn: "You get up. You move around. You interact with a few people. You appropriate an image of the landscape where you are. You got to bed, and in the morning you do it all again. The card, the list and the map are the formal trappings of what is an incredibly fluid process. Your practice represents both a commitment to an aesthetic of minimalism, and a stressing of the importance of one basic thing, consciousness. It's amazingly simple. It's amazingly layered. As an artist, you are alive like no-one else is."

On is silent.

Bjorn Springfeldt: "You are still alive. And you get up, you move around, you meet a few people, you appropriate an image, and you are
still still alive until you drop off to sleep. And you get up the next day, you move around, you meet a few more people, you appropriate an image and you are still still still alive. And then you make things really tough for yourself by deciding that the next day is to be a Date Painting day. It is unbelievable. It is beyond beautiful. I know that there're other Conceptual Artists who have put emphasis on the idea rather than the object - John Baldessari, Dan Graham, Sol Lewitt, Bruce Nauman, Joseph Kosuth - but these artists, good though they are, some of them, have not one tenth of your depth of vision, your commitment to process."

On is silent.

Bjorn falls silent too.

From there, the boat headed back to Stockholm, with On Kawara still very much in possession of his briefcase and its contents.

September 16, 1979
(In Stockholm)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh



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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've made a Google version of this second map (above) of September 16, for a couple of reasons. First, it makes the city island-hopping clearer. From the castle island, to the museum island, to downtown Stockholm island, to Nobel Prize Museum island, where, in a hotel room, On Kawara would have had the opportunity to unpack his things and to update his 'I MET' lists and 'I WENT' maps at his leisure.

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The second reason I've made the above map, is that it allows me to show very clearly how his movements on September 16, 1979, compare with his movements on December 27, 1972, when he was on a two-month residency at the Museet Moderna. The bit the routes have in common, is the crossing of the bridge from the island containing the art museum to the island containing the downtown district.

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On Kawara has returned to a Stockholm he knows well. But before rushing in to the final day of 'I GOT UP AT', 'I WENT' and 'I MET', let's take a breather. Let's take a break in order to set things up properly. Let's make a Date Painting.



SIX

Today is December the 16th, 2021. Though that will become obvious soon enough.

As I'm painting the date, I'm going to be giving due attention to the book, shown below, that was published by Moderna Museet in Stockholm in 1980.

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It's a book that has been by my side throughout this project as it gives details of every Date Painting made in each year from 1966 to 1979, including size, sub-title and where each was made. All vitally important information for these essays. But there's much more to the book than that. It begins with endpapers decorated with pics of On Kawara's studio over the years, including this image from 1979:

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The photo was taken at the same time as the one I used earlier in this essay, but from a different angle, with more emphasis on the artist's smoking accessories and the fact that he was using a hair dryer to help speed up the drying of the acrylic. More of a 'warts and all' view, one might say.

By the way, today's Date is going to be almost black. That is to say, I'm using Payne's Grey straight out of the tube. Coat one:

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The first coat is now evenly applied to the front and the sides of the picture. Let's leave it to dry, which should take about half an hour.

Turning over a couple of pages in the yellow-covered book, one reaches this. I think it's his only mention in
On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity, but it does state clearly enough Bjorn Springfeldt's role:

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On the facing page, Kasper gets a mention as does Hiroko. The words are signed by the directors of the four galleries that staged the exhibition, three European and one Japanese. Olle Granath was the director of the Moderna Museet at the time, having succeeded Pöntus Hulten, but it would have been Björn Springfeldt that wrote this, I suspect.

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Now there's a thing. The first coat of my Date Painting is not even nearly dry after half an hour. It must be the winter temperature. Oh well, I can continue with my consideration of the book. I am not in a hurry. Indeed, I need to be slowed down like this.

The sample 'I MET' pages are all from January, 1973. In the double page shown below we have Pontus Hulten's name among those on the
verso, and Björn Springfeldt's, along with Milla Tragardh's, on the recto.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It is also clear why the editor chose a batch of 'I GOT UP AT' from 1978/79. They are some of the cards sent to Lili König and so would have been some of the most easily accessible. In addition, I imagine it would have meant a great deal to Kasper König to have them included.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Note the last line of the text. 'This series may be resumed.' Presumably that's what On Kawara had said to Björn Springfeldt. Presumably that was the deal.

The images I don't see the obvious reason for inclusion in the book are the 'I WENT' maps. Six maps made in Brasilia in February of 1969. In the 1969 essay on this site, These maps set up one of the most extended flights of fancy in this project to date, l but I suspect that there would have been a down to earth reason for their inclusion in
On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity. I must ask AGO for the 'I MET' lists for these days. Surely they will enable me to connect something. Stay tuned for the revelation, if revelation there be. But that can wait until later.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Okay, I have been making progress. Though it took an hour and a half for the first coat of grey/black to dry, so I turned the heating up in the conservatory in order to get back to something like a half-hour drying time between coats.

Shit. I haven't been taking photos of the Date Painting's progress. This is partly because I've been splitting my attention between other things. The Christmas edition of the
Spectator has a letter of mine in it, and I've been tweeting about that. I've also been writing a crucial email - and I've sent it - so that I can include it at this point in the narrative:

Dear Gitte,

Would you be able to forward this email to Björn Springfeldt? It concerns a seminal moment in Art History!

Please let me know either way. Thanks.

Best wishes,
Duncan

And then we get down to it:

Dear Björn,

I’m researching and writing about the life and work of On Kawara for onkawara.co.uk (my own website) and have reached 1979.

It’s said that 'I MET', 'I WENT' and 'I GOT UP AT' all finished on September 18, 1979, because the artist had his attaché case - containing the date and address stamps that he used - stolen from a bank that day.

As (according to 'I MET') you were with him for the several days preceding the theft, I wanted to ask you about the context. And as it’s quite a long time ago, it might help if l use 'I MET' to try and jog your memory.

September 14, 1979
Edda Köchl
Kasper König
Gerhard Merz
Rüdiger Schöttle
Brygida Ochaim

Before coming to Stockholm, On Kawara stopped off in Munich and spent several days in the company of Kasper König, who as you know played a vital role in shaping On Kawara’s art career. I expect Kasper had already been in touch with you, senior curator at the time, about the large show proposed for Museet Moderna in 1980. Maybe it had even been suggested that it might help the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue if 'I MET', 'I WENT' and 'I GOT UP AT' were completed projects by then. What, if anything, do you recall of these early negotiations?

September 15, 1979
(In Betsön)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh

September 15, 1979
(In Halsingholmen)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh

September 16, 1979
(In Halsingholmen)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh

I’m sure On Kawara enjoyed sailing around the islands off Stockholm, intrepid sight-seer as he was. Did you have to prevent him from throwing his attaché case into the sea, reminding him of Kasper’s/Hiroko’s/your plan to wait until he was back in the city?! Are there any island-hopping anecdotes that only you know and you’d be willing to share?

September 16, 1979
(In Stockholm)
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh

September 17, 1979
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Tragardh
Ann Rappe
Nina Ohman
Margarita Helleberg

On the night of the 16th and 17th September, On stayed at Göran Halsinges Grand 4, as confirmed by his 'I GOT UP AT' postcards. So I imagine that his date and address stamps were out of his case and lying about his room, his mobile studio.

On the 18th, (according to Kasper König, talking in 2015 at the Guggenheim) On Kawara went to a bank in order to cash American Express cheques. But why would he have had the stamps with him? Was he
en route to the airport, meaning he would have packed his equipment again? But the day of leaving a city is not a usual time to get local currency.

One of the two postcards that On sent on September 17th was to Anna Astner in New York. Do you know who got the other postcard from that final day of such an astonishing project?

Apologies for asking questions about so long ago. Have a good day in December, 2021.

I would be so grateful for any kind of reply.

Best wishes,

Duncan McLaren


Perhaps in my anxiety to get that sent off, I have expressed myself a little too directly. I don't think I can expect a reply, on balance. But if I do get one, I must make use of every word. Because it will be the inside track on what actually happened.

Anyway, things were more or less back on track as far as my Date Painting was concerned, when I received some disappointing news from David Fleiss. News that is just in as I type. He has been to his warehouse and is
not going to be able to answer my questions about the postcards as he doesn't want to destroy the packaging that the 'I GOT UP AT' books came in.

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Am I dismayed by this? Actually, I'm not. Because I'm Date Painting, which is a meditative, grounding process, where things slowly get better, calm down, become acceptably good. At some stage in the afternoon I go for a walk and take a photo of the view from a local landmark. And so this comes about:

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All right, I think we're ready for another change of pace and scene. A time/space warp. The final day of On Kawara's self-observation series. I just hope I've got my timing right. Oh, and it will be updated if I hear from Björn Springfeldt re what happened on September 18th, 1979.



SEVEN

On picked up a postcard which summarised his last day or so in lovely Venice, I mean Stockholm.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It's a view of Campanile Tower and St Mark's Square. Or, rather, Stockholm Town Hall. It's a picture taken not far from where On Kawara was staying, but not looking over to the island where the Moderna Museet is, but looking the other way, to an area just beyond the left edge of the day's 'I WENT' map.

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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

As we can see, On Kawara walked to the Moderna Museet on September 17. Perhaps it was to discuss his forthcoming show, in situ. Or perhaps he just wanted to borrow the art gallery's date stamp. That joke serves the purpose of emphasising that even if someone did go on to steal On Kawara's briefcase the next day, it was On's decision to end the three series there and then, and his alone. Nothing would have been easier to replace the date stamp and to buy the materials to make up the address stamps needed for 'I GOT UP AT'.

1968 to 1979 is eleven years. A big chunk of his maturity. Had he not done enough?

17 SEP. 1979
17 SEP. 1979


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Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

He had done enough. He had done amazing things.bAnd now he could concentrate on Date Painting. And on Hiroko and Akito. And on the next Million Years.

But hang on a minute. There is another factor to consider. By September 18, 1979, Hiroko was over six months pregnant with their second child. A girl, Sahe, would be born on the second of December, 1979. I have a feeling that On Kawara had decided that he would be having a protracted stay in New York contributing to the raising of his family. And if one isn't travelling, one isn't sending postcards. Endless postcards from New York might well become tedious.

I should also add that Jonathan Watkins has now read this essay. He has written:

'I think the suitcase was really stolen, and On used it as a reason to stop. Again he was funny about this, laughing as he told me. I think "I Got Up" etc had become a chore and he was glad to wrap it up.'