1973







INTRO


On Kawara had an incredibly busy, original and productive year. And I think I should outline it before going into the absorbing details.

He would be in Europe and Africa for three months.

Then a fortnight in New York catching up with friends. Then a fortnight in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where the Konig family were living and Kasper Konig was working at the school of art. Back to New York for a month, before a longer trip to Nova Scotia taking in an Atlantic salmon fishing expedition involving Ansell Bray.

As if that wasn't enough, in autumn, On and Hiroko took off on a road-trip across America, all the way to California and back. I argue that this was prompted by Ikko Narahara's experience of the American road-trip, captured in superb photographs and communicated through regular conversations with On Kawara from 1971 to 1973.

It's bit of a roller-coaster is the three-parter that is 1973. Hold tight to your sense of day-to-day life as your transport quickly gets up to speed. Ostensibly, I'm driving, though we all know that it's On Kawara that's in control.



PART ONE

JANUARY

On Kawara was in Stockholm as 1972 ticked over into 1973. And on January the 1st he 'MET' the following people.

fmnyyt0025crugbiim0q6oeqw_thumb_d4bc Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

See how the artist has meticulously embellished the Swedish letters by hand with accents and umlauts.

His day was bookended by meetings with the Hulténs. The list serves to confirm that On Kawara was on his own in Stockholm. No Kasper König. No Dan Graham. No Hirotsugu Aoki. No Hiroko Hiraoka. The book On Kawara continuity/discontinuity makes available 'I MET' for January 1 through to January 7. Pontus Hultén crops up on January, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

On January 3, On Kawara sent out four 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams to (I assume) gallerists and collectors in Europe whose names I don't recognise. Jaroslav Kozlowski in Poland, Mirojub Todorovic in Dobrinska, Thomas M. Cohn in Germany and Hans-Werne Kalkmann, also in Germany were the recipients. These same four also got 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams on January 12 and 23. Funnily enough, a study of the 'I MET' maps for those three days does not reveal a place in common that could have been the post office used. So it may be that On got Pontus Hulten or another member of staff at Moderna Museet to send them on one or more occasions.

The 'I MET' list for January 4 includes Bjorn Springfeldt. He edited the aforementioned continuity/discontinuity book, published in 1980, perhaps the most important book ever published about On Kawara as it reproduces comprehensive content from all the Journals from 1966 to 1979, inclusive. I've been relying on those details of Date Paintings and their subtitles throughout this narrative. This crucial data is something even the Tama Art University website doesn't make available.

The following reproduction has been taken from continuity/discontinuity. Perhaps it suggests that with the decision about subtitles made - no more newspaper quotes - On Kawara was able to get back to the meditative practice of painting itself. One has to go back to November, 1971, for a month when more Date Paintings were made.

rvt42f8htnmyh78zrhsavw_thumb_d3f7 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On the other hand, On Kawara was still reading newspapers and adding to 'I READ', so the change of subtitle does not necessarily mean that On had become less political. You get a sense of this if I translate from the Swedish the headline of the main story on each day's 'I READ' sheet:

3 JAN. 1973. 'The FNL Cuts off Saigon's Bombing raids into North Vietnam.'

6. JAN. 1973. 'The IRA invites the UDA to discuss the election.'

7 JAN. 1973. 'Borjes 20,000 richer Rattles in the bandy.' (Not a good translation, I suspect!)

8 JAN. 1973. 'Snipers missing from hotel.'

9 JAN. 1973 'Kekkonen stays here for four years.'

10 JAN. 1973. 'Syria: 500 killed in Israeli attack.'

11 JAN. 'Tito, apostle of peace for Egypt.'

12 JAN. 1973 'Budapest police stormed boarding school. Freed 14 girls.'

13 JAN. 1973. 'Disaster that could not…' (The full headline is obscured by an overlapping clipping.)

14 JAN. 1973. ''Message from Nixon to the Saigon junta. Continued hope.'

17 JAN. 1973. ''The blind sign creates security.'

19 JAN. 1973. ''Fire service from Zambia.'

20 JAN. 1973. 'Vietnam protests from around the world.'

22 JAN. 1973. 'Have found… (Another overlapping clipping obscures key words.)

Not quite the news that he would have been reading from the New York Times if he'd been at home in Manhattan. A bit more focus on Europe. But Vietnam is covered all right.

On Kawara took the following photo, so that he had a documentary record of his studio in Stockholm and five of the last seven Date Paintings he painted there. Shame that there are so few architectural clues as to what kind of room he was in. All you can see is paraphernalia on a table and Date Paintings standing on the floor.

doi6qqcbqeeeckcphu1002brw_thumb_d26d Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Note the book in the foreground. It would seem to be a daily log of productivity, and so may well include the names of the individuals who were sent 'I GOT UP' postcards. I know that such a book exists, because it is mentioned by René Block in the introduction to On Kawara: 1976 Berlin 1986, but I suspect it has not been shown before in public. It would provide full and easy answers as to who On Kawara courted in the art world, and who he sent cards to in his friendship group, and how those two worlds evolved and intersected over the years.

Actually, let's have a closer look at On Kawara's log book:

d7ehghlyrk6owb6qf0025ztaq_thumb_d26d



The first column is a stamp of the date, with Sundays separated from the rest of the week. It can't be a log of the Date Paintings, as the last one of those made was on January 22. Yet we can see that the row for January 24 is fully filled in. It seems to me that each day has two columns that might be for dates. Then a column that might be for a name, divided into first and second name. Then a tick column. Then another wide column for first and second name, finally another tick column.

In which case this log must just be for the 'I GOT UP' postcards. And I can see now that the third column is the getting up time, with A.M. prominent. The two columns with names in it are complete to the bottom of the page, because On Kawara had decided in advance - perhaps for several weeks in advance - who he was going to send postcards to.

Which means that this photo was taken on January 25, 1973. The reason that the second column is not filled in is that the artist had not posted the cards yet. At least that's my current hypothesis. The card to Herman van Eelen on January 25 (available on the Tama Art University website) suggests a 10.17A.M. getting up time, which I can convince myself is what it says in column three. Tama's site tells me that cards were sent to Lynn Fugle on January 21, 22, 23. And I can make that out in the first double column. Also Giancarlo Politi got cards from Jan 11 to Jan 20, and his name is in the second double-column on these dates, that's down the right hand side of the page.

But I wouldn't like to say whether Herman van Eelen is the name in column four or six on January 25. Tell I a lie, it's not the name in column 4, so it must be the name in column six.

One of the most interesting things about the prospect of getting access to On Kawara's postcard log, is to find out who was sent cards but didn't have the gumption, or luck, to retain them. What do I mean? Well, for a start, the cards shown on the Tama Art University (taken from the Michelle Didier volumes) show reconstructions of the cards sent to Lynn Fugle and Giancarlo Politi, not the cards themselves. Why was this necessary? Well, this is the sort of thing that might have happened:

Andy Warhol: "Dude, where is my collection of On Kawara postcards?"

Factory hand: "Andy, you flushed them down the loo as they came in. Don't you remember? Day after day. 120 flushes in a row, but you commemorated each one with such beautiful words."

Andy: "Such as?"

Factory hand: "I can't remember."

Andy: "You mean nobody was taking notes? Christ, I thought there was always someone taking notes."

Factory hand: "I remember one time. You read it, tore it up, flushed it down the loo, then killed us all when you said: 'I GOT UP OFF THE CAN AT 6.46 P.M."



FEBRUARY

By the beginning of February, Hiroko had joined her partner, and On Kawara took his leave of Stockholm. They did not return home to New York, but embarked on a southern journey. They travelled to Paris, to Casablanca, to a Canary Island, to Dakar in Senegal and to Freetown in Sierra Leone. On Date Painted in each of these places and kept up with his 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET' projects. When I first wrote this up in 2021 I had some access to postcards and maps, but almost no access to the lists of people met. Because Hiroko Hiraoka was not with On Kawara for most of the time in Stockholm, I assumed he made his trip through Europe and Africa on his own, with Hiroko meeting him in Dakar. I now know this was wrong, thanks to 'I MET' info gratefully received from Art Gallery, Ontario, in 2022. And now thanks to the complete 'I MET" which Tama Art University has made available. As result this chapter has had to be rewritten several times. I hope it doesn't show.

Increasingly, I realise how important 'I MET' is to the biographical framework of On Kawara's work. I think the artist became aware of this, which is why he allowed so few lists - carefully selected - to be published in his lifetime. In the books I've primarily been making use of, the 'I MET' count is as follows:

On Kawara: One Year's Production. This contains 24 'I MET' lists, all from September and October of 1973. This is the only selection that gives the reader a clue that On Kawara's main social group was predominantly a Japanese expat one. Dan Graham and Kasper König are the exceptions that prove the rule.

On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity. This contains just seven 'I MET' lists, Jan 1 to Jan 7, 1973, which is what I began this essay with. All Swedish.

On Kawara 1976 Berlin 1986. This contains only three lists from On Kawara's year in Berlin.

On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality. This contains not a single 'I MET'. Its irreplaceable strengths are its 'I GOT UP' and 'I WENT'. A remarkable 33 of each from 1973 alone.

On Kawara: Date Paintings in 89 Cities. This contains a single 'I MET', for 10 October 1973, containing a single name, Hiroko Hiraoka.

On Kawara (Phaidon monograph): This contains the first 7 days of July, 1968, plus May 31, 1977, a day spent in London with art world figures.

On Kawara: 10 Tableaux and 16,952 Pages. This contains 31 'I MET lists', the whole of July 1968, when On was in Mexico City and fascinated by the Spanish names, as well as Japanese and European ones.

On Kawara: SILENCE: This contains 24 'I MET' lists. Two from most years from 1968 to 1979. With a slight bias towards art world figures. Kasper König is on a quarter of the lists, when really they didn't meet that often, their relationship, admittedly close, was intellectual and long-distance.

So that means 24 + 7 + 3 + 1 + 7 + 1 + 31- 7 + 24 = 91 published 'I MET' lists. Out of a total of about 210 + (10 x 365) + 300 = 4160. In other words, approximately 2% of the 'I MET' lists are published, and that 2% is biased away from Japanese New Yorkers and towards both art world contacts and socially neutral places (foreign countries where On Kawara was meeting strangers). Which is why the access I have via Art Gallery Ontario to the complete 'I MET' is vital to the balance of this biography.

One might think that Tama Art University making all the 'I MET' available online makes the above breakdown of sources superseded. But that's not quite the case: On Kawara sent out two postcards daily and included one in the volumes published in limited edition of 100 in 2008, which Tama have made widely available in 2023. In 2008, On Kawara was still controlling the flow of information about himself. And sometimes it will be possible to work out the reason why.

End of Stockholm residency. First stop, Paris, where On had lived - splitting his time between there and New York - between 1962 and 1964, prior to making his permanent home in New York. So it was well-known territory. On Kawara was in Paris for at least ten days, presumably enjoying the city with Hiroko, before he got his paints out and went into action.

February 7, 1973
Hiroko Hiraoka
Isabelle Leblois
Mikolt Kemeny
Gerard Breuil
Roger Mazarguil
Janine Mazarguil
Laurent Mazarguil

Roger Mazarguil was the restauranteur that On sent several sequences of postcards to. This is the only day On and Hiroko met him and his family in 1973. Gerard Breuil is a painter and Mikolt Kemeny a French writer and translator. On Kawara was to send the latter 60-odd cards towards the end of 1973.

w6jwpotdr0ew4oekj3gqtg_thumb_d3ee Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

11 FEV. 1973. Official subtitle: "Dimanche." Unofficial subtitle: 'The All Blacks couldn't believe it!'

That is the only Date Painting he made in Paris. How do I know? Because of the artist's scrupulous records, that part of them made available to the general public by On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity.


m002bmecfr9rkabd6o002b40025n4sw_thumb_d3f8 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


It must be borne in mind that On Kawara could read French. He had the opportunity to revert to using sentences from the paper of the city he was living in as the subtitle to his Date Painting. That had always added a political dimension to his work. But as we can see from the above record, he didn't do that. A turning point had been arrived at. Subtitles from here on would simply be the day of the week, in the language of wherever he was.

Next stop, Casablanca. I have an 'I WENT' for February 17, 18 and 19 (see below). February 18 was a Date Painting day, so he didn't go far afield. Actually, he didn't explore the more historic parts of the city in any of these three days, instead keeping to the commercial and hotel district.

Below is the postcard that On Kawara sent Kasper König on the first of these three days. Note that KK's address is Nova Scotia, where OK would be joining him in April of 1973.

albsdxsnqcwynexhwhqtdg_thumb_d403 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

This postcard handily gives the address of the Post office as L'avenue Hassan II. And On Kawara did visit this on several days and it's from here that he sent an 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegram on Feb 22. Actually, this telegram, and the one he sent from Paris on Feb 15 (and the ones he would send from Boston and New York), went to Pontus Hulten and three other named people who worked at Modernat Museet. Then in the middle of the year One would send each of the four a single 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegram from Halifax, Canada. In other words, sometimes the 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams went to people he had never met, as in January. And at other times they were generous acts of friendship.

It may be that On Kawara used the post office to mail his postcards as well. Though if that was the case, why didn't he visit it every day? In SILENCE, Anne Wheeler tells us that On Kawara would sometimes prepare his stamps for the postcards the night before, but would always execute the postcards on the given day. Which falls short of saying that he would post it that same day. I think it's reasonable to assume that sometimes circumstances would dictate that it might be two or more days before a postcard was posted. Indeed, come to think of it, February 18, 1973, was a Sunday. I suspect the post office would have been closed.

On Kawara only made two Date Paintings in the week or so he was in Casablanca. An interesting thing about the one below is the Arabic script on the newspaper extract. As far as I know, On Kawara couldn't read Arabic. In which case, I'm surprised he didn't revert to using an empty box. Having said that, aesthetically it makes for an irresistible contrast to the Roman alphabet letters painted onto the canvas. On such occasions, as when On was in Japan in 1970/71, the Date is rendered in Esperanto, though that would not be understood at a casual glance.

0zhc7rxzstorbdbdwelwyq_thumb_d3ef Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The 'I READ' from that day consists of cuttings from a French-speaking newspaper available in Casablanca. Which obviously On Kawara could and did read, clipping the articles that particularly caught his attention.

Next stop one of the Canary Islands. The exploitation of the environment for tourists was well underway in On Kawara's lifetime, as revealed by the 'I GOT UP' postcard of Feb. 23, which shows the hotels of the seventies looking much as they do today.

3wc2ki0oqjep0rergqwpxa_thumb_d4bf Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara was staying at the Hotel Concorde. That is still there now, though it no longer overlooks the beach. A new generation of development has swarmed around it, downgrading its status, though a rooftop pool has proved one way of preserving its attraction.

I doubt if On Kawara was as impressed by Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as he had been by Hawaii, two years before. But then that's comparing World Heritage Sites, and there's no need to do that. On Kawara and Hiroko were living the most original existence, underpinned by flexibility, curiosity and relentless pursuit of system. Oh, and, I presume, through the money On Kawara was now earning from his Date Painting.

f9ks523lq6udam4vn91ora_thumb_d3f0 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The above headline is Spanish, since the Canary Islands are owned by Spain, and translates into: 'Lanusse, expected today in Madrid.' On bought a different paper the next day and it's from that paper of February 25th that he clipped stories for his 'I READ' file for 24 FEV. 1973.

On and Hiroko flew to Dakar, Senegal, on February 26. The 'I WENT' for February 27 is the only one that shows On staying at a hotel in the docks near the bus station. It looks to me as if the couple spent February 27 taking a look around the city and selected somewhere more suitable for the rest of their stay.

In other words, although On Kawara woke up in a hotel in the top right of the map, the next night he would be staying at a place they found that day, bottom left.

nsed6xyqqw69hnw00251jjl4a_thumb_d42e Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The hotel move is clearly signalled by the 'I GOT UP' cards.

96wnanodqyqyd0nqlbtxrg_thumb_102bc.gzuvrjkiqbkbfdav002b1upaa_thumb_102bb



MARCH

In 2008, On Kawara selected a variety of cards from both daily recipients for the Michelle Didier volume, now made available by Tama Art University. That's to say, sometimes the card reproduced is the one to Kasper Konig and sometimes the card is the one sent to Lucy Lippard and later Konrad Fischer. Visualise the log book I discussed in January, if that helps.

However, all the cards that were sent to Kasper Konig were reproduced in the book accompanying On Kawara's first major show in 1974. Most were reproduced at a small size and in black-and-white, as you can see from this repro:

p4tgqoiursgx4rdtrfvlua_thumb_d41d Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The above page is from On Kawara: One Year's Production. The year in question being 1973. It's one of three publications on On Kawara's work that are primarily feeding into this chapter, books published in 1974, 1980 and 2000, respectively. On Kawara: One Year's Production; On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity and On Kawara: horizontality/verticality. Of course, that's superseded by the amount of additional info made available from Tama Art University.


The 'I WENT' maps tend to come from the third volume aforementioned. The postcards come from the first and the third. The lists of Date Paintings are from the second volume, the book that's been of most use to me, chapter after chapter. Here is the list that applies for the remainder of this month:

vemjhazbtqs9pke9irubla_thumb_d3f9

The picture side of the first Dakar 'I GOT UP' postcard to Kasper Konig, dated 1 March, 1973, is a colour-saturated scene of African women at a fish market.

zu7b3dxmslqxtvv99pvcug_thumb_d4d6

It's a shame that production costs in 1974 mean that most of the postcards are reproduced at a small size and in black and white. Perhaps this frustrated Kasper König, so when in 2000 he had the opportunity to publish On Kawara: horizontality/verticality, he published his artist friend's postcards in full-size and full-colour on high quality glossy paper. How tremendous, in so many ways, is this, where the artist has chosen a brown ink stamp for aesthetic reasons.

knhb4u9ssmys870025dq7brsq_thumb_d4ed Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

In On Kawara: horizontality/verticality this page has been placed opposite the 'I WENT' map for the day. But there has been another technological advance in the last twenty years, which is to say Google Maps and Google Street View. Which I recommend using in conjunction with this text, as I did when first drafting it in 2021 (see further down the menu). A few yards from On Kawara's hotel can be found a colourful scene, rivalling the fish market. I could feel the enervating heat, even in the shade. A heat to which the African body has adapted itself quite nicely. And at On Kawara's hotel itself, the Hotel du Plateau on Rue Jules Ferry, a soldier stood guard. From the window of the Hotel du Plateau overlooking Rue Jules Ferry was another enthralling scene. No wonder On Kawara selected the figure-dominated postcards that he did while in equatorial Africa. What were the guys hanging around for? They were hoping that if they hung around long enough, On Kawara would toss a Date Painting their way. And it's just possible they were in luck. The first two background layers on the Date below are of sunshine yellow, I trust:

002b5sp10mlqj6qwposgw0sua_thumb_d3f1 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Did the Dakar Date Paintings of March 3 and March 4, 1973, make it out of Senegal and into the art collections of rich Westerners? I will keep my eyes open for those two children of the sun.

But hold on. Let's translate the main headline that On Kawara placed in the Date's box: 'The Fedayeen executed three hostages.' Not so sunny then. What does 'I READ' add to the mix? A beautiful, smiling woman's face, and a mix of clippings all overlapping each other and from which no clear picture emerges.

Next stop for me, my books and computer, is Freetown in Sierra Leone. On Kawara was there for ten nights and the postcards to Kasper König are all reproduced in On Kawara: One Year's Production, all sent from the Paramount Hotel.

08wngoiuqva5zkks9ava5g_thumb_d41e Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Kasper Konig had the opportunity to reproduce one of these perfectly in On Kawara: horizontality/verticality, and he went for this one:

cilbhelgqh2lnw8cqhkgka_thumb_d4efnh9uwjrmtlso002b8pu3002bzk9g_thumb_d4f0. Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Where have all the bright, colourful people gone? They are sadly missed. However, the postcard is of geographical interest. On Kawara stayed at the Paramount Hotel, which no longer exists, but the Cotton Tree featured on the picture side of the postcard does.

Bringing an On Kawara 'I WENT' map to life happens in two stages. The first is to produce a similar map using Google tools. That can easily be done and, in this case, looked promising. On March 8, On Kawara went into, or stopped at, a few distinct places. There is every chance that some of the places haven't changed their function between 1973 and 2021. However, Google Street View is not yet available in Sierra Leone. So I cannot yet do stage two of bringing On Kawara's 'I WENT' to life, that is to stand in front of the buildings in On Kawara's footsteps. I'll just have to come back to Freetown in a year or two. What I can say now is that the picture on the postcard of March 8 was self-referential, in that it was taken from close to where On Kawara was staying.

Only one Date Painting was made in these ten days. On Kawara must have been doing something else with the majority of his time, presumably exploring the exotic environment with Hiroko.

c0jvmgugqpe002bgwem1kai2a_thumb_d3f2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Does 'I READ' add to this picture? The main clipping, in English, tells that the Sierra Leone parliament voted through a bill that allows a state of emergency to be declared by the Prime Minister. Though the postcards from west Africa are full of everyday life, the newspaper reports make it clear that everyday life is in turmoil.

On and Hiroko travelled back to Senegal for the last week of their trip, to a seaside resort called N'Gor. This is the most westerly point on the continent of Africa and it would seem that Date Painting was not allowed. Perhaps Hiroko wanted to enjoy some down time with On. The maps On made are on a different scale to usual. March 16th shows him coming in from the airport in Dakar. He (and Hiroko) were driven past the high-rise Hotel N'gor, the best hotel in the area, designed by Le Corbusier and open for business since 1953, and went on to the Hotel Diarama, a low-level hotel, though still a very desirable location.

tik10cirqrwenmthiwapua_thumb_d42f Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It seems that On Kawara walked onto the tennis court. He may even have played a game of tennis with Hiroko, though if he did so he remained at the same side of the net throughout the game. He spent some time at the beach bar marked. (What do the slightly wavy lines represent in the above map? On Kawara did not usually drink alcohol, but I suppose he may have had a drink if he was in holiday mode.) It looks as if they took a boat to the island that's just offshore. And why not? You can almost see the laughing and the splashing when considering an aerial view courtesy of Google. People lying in the sand while soaking up the sun's rays. I think of the above map as a most personal and intimate - yet discreet and deadpan - artwork. The line-making executed with the deepest respect for himself and his partner and what they had together. Altogether there are seven such maps in 'I WENT' covering this presumably idyllic stay, and in 2023 they were made available by Tama Art University. Let's go through them together, dear reader…

The above map for the 16th doesn't contain a red dot showing where On Kawara got up, that can be found on the other 'I WENT' map made earlier that day, back in Sierra Leone. But the subsequent maps show that On got up in the Hotel Diarama towards the far end of the right-hand (northern) wing or corridor.

On the 17th On and Hiroko had a walk on the beach and a meal (again) at the beach-side restaurant, La Paillote.

On the 18th, back to La Paillote, and back to the tennis court, perhaps for a return match.

On the 19th a day out in the city of Dakar at La Place de L'Independence.

On the 20th, an expedition to the beach and another game of tennis. And a second trip to the beach which would seem to have involved On Kawara getting into the sea! I had better show the evidence for this, though it's not as high quality a repro as for the 16th:

skr6qzrntl002bpae7jli002bqpq_thumb_102c3

Either after or before entering the ocean, On walked through Hotel N'Gor. Perhaps he had to go there to get a swimming costume. But hang on minute, I've missed out the event that would seem to explain all else. On made a return journey to Dakar airport (off the bottom of the map). It would seem that the person met was staying at Hotel N'Gor and perhaps it was he/she that insisted that a dip in the sea was in order. So who was it? Well, the only other person (apart from Hiroko) met that day was Mamadou Diallo. And he had been met on the 16th, 17th and 18th. I suppose it's possible that On went to the airport to see him off. Anyway let's carry on…


On the 21st, Mamadou Diallo was met again. And there was another return journey to Dakar airport. So there must have been something else about the airport that made it worth a visit. Meanwhile, On had walked between the tennis courts and explored the Hotel N'gor a bit more. Yet another meal at the beach restaurant called La Paillote. I guess it was a cool place to eat, with views across the ocean towards the Americas

Finally, on the 22nd, On and Hiroko had a last meal at La Pailotte, then went to the airport and didn't return. Their week in paradise was over. On first coming across these maps I concluded that On and Hiroko may have got married in this week. They were married by 1974 when Hiroko's name is printed as 'Hiroko Kawara' in the catalogue to One Year's Production. Now I no longer think that. The wedding was more likely a quiet affair in a New York registry office.

ne last thing before we return with On and Hiroko to New York. The postcards that were sent out from N'gor. For some reason, in 2008, On chose to reconstruct the second card, which went to Lynn Fugle, such as this:

h4bws8mwtio7r6bs178igg_thumb_102c6

The above rather lifeless object, with its absence of picture side, bears no comparison with the postcard that was sent to Kasper Konig that same day:

4969txgfsbez81kxhsjygg_thumb_d510

So why did On not use that for the Michelle Didier edition? Perhaps because the card to Kasper Konig was reproduced in that 1980 catalogue that went with the show One Year's Production. Though I don't think it can be as simple as that.

Just look at the dignified strength of that character sitting on what I take to be the beach at N'gor. A metaphor for On Kawara if ever there was one. In my opinion, On Kawara's passion for consciousness will be passing the test of time a hundred years from now. A million years? That's asking rather a lot of the universe's attention span.



PART TWO

For the first two days in New York, the 'I GOT UP' postcards were sent from 24 East 22nd Street, which must have been where they were staying. That was the address of Ikko and Keiko Narahara who feature on the 'I MET' lists for these days. Clearly On and Hiroko had given up their previous rented address to go to Europe and Africa. So they weren't yet rich, not exactly.

One of the daily postcards was sent to Choyoshi Kawai, an artist with links to James Turrell, based in Santa Monica, California, though there is very little about her online. As we'll see, she crops up on 'I MET' later in the year. Do I reproduce the image from One Year's Production or the lower quality but colour image on the Tama Art University website? This one as the key thing is On's own address.

pliuq46ksk002bh002b5w002be5ihmg_thumb_d545 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

From March 23 for 11 days, the 'I GOT UP' postcards were issued from 97 Crosby Street. That's the address that in 1969 applied to On's friend Aoki. This means that On sought out Aoki after the four month trip to Europe and West Africa, in spring, 1973, just as he did when he came back from Mexico and South America in spring, 1969.

j1s5kjtgth21h2nxjt7p2g_thumb_d546 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

In this New York fortnight, On met Aoki nine times, Soroku four times and Nobu three times. He was not Date Painting in this period, possibly because I imagine he was completing his Journal for 1972, as it was the first time he'd been back at base since mid-December, 1972. I imagine also that he was making preparations for his next trip, to Nova Scotia in south east Canada. At the end of the New York fortnight he (and Hiroko) hooked up with Kasper Konig and travelled to Nova Scotia where the rest of the Konig family were living in the biggest town there, called Halifax.



APRIL/MAY


Here is what fellow conceptual artist and contemporary, Lawrence Weiner, said about Nova Scotia. 'Nova Scotia at that time had no lifestyle. In Nova Scotia, if you had to go there, you'd go down to the water to buy lobster because it was cheap early in the morning, a head of lettuce that somebody had rolled all the way from California, and a teeny little thing of olive oil that they didn't quite know what it was for.'

Note the expression 'if you had to go there'. On Kawara wanted to go there because his old friend (and enormous support in the art world) Kasper König had invited him. No doubt also he and Hiroko wanted to spend time with Ilka, Lili and Coco.

The address On stayed at was 6136 Coburg Road. Again, these are from the book, One Year's Production.

gf9i3b2vsg20025zzzp3jm2na_thumb_d421 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


On April 4, 1973 (the day of the first postcard from 6136 Coburn Road) there was an artist's talk given by Douglas Huebler in the Boardroom on the 6th floor of the main art college building at 6152 Coburg Road. A heated exchange followed it, led by Kasper König who suggested that Huebler was using the word 'political' in an American way. I have little doubt that On Kawara was sitting quietly beside Kasper König as this discussion took place. I say that, but Douglas Huebler was not on the day's 'I MET' list

I'll get to an 'I WENT' map in a moment. First, the I MET for April 5.


April 5, 1973
Hiroko Hiraoka
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg
Lili Konig
Kasper Konig
Vicki Kalantzis
Hiroko Konig

I don't know who Vicki Kalantzis is, but we sure know who Ilka, Lili, Hiroko and Kasper are. So the 33 postcards that On had sent from Europe and Africa, pre-Choyoshi Kawai, ostensibly to Kasper König, would no doubt have been pored over by all the family, except one-year-old Coco.

On Kawara made his first Nova Scotia Date Painting on April 7. I have access to a high-quality 'I WENT' for the next day, April 8.

2u7a82x1qfoty4ahjzp7ba_thumb_d52a Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've travelled the route with Google. Quite a lot of walking was done on April 8. Let's zero in on it.

e7fcnw4dq7ono0e6aegp2a_thumb_d52b Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've learned from Google that Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been rebuilt. The college has moved. The house that On Kawara stayed at has been knocked down and redeveloped. The place he went to on Pepperell Street (the square at the top left of the red circuit) has also been redeveloped. But the small square that On Kawara explored above Sackville Street is a modernist building from 1970, and that still exists. A visit was also paid to the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts, as it was then called, the point furthest right on the circuit of red biro. But the highlight of the day's cultural wanderings may have been the squiggly stroll through the parkland with the citadel at its centre.

It's the symbolic centre of Halifax. Vast stretches of mown grass and of bare stone. And right at the middle of the Citadel, centre-point of the Army Museum, guarded night and day by two kilted soldiers, is a tiny bottle of olive oil that no-one knows what to do with. As you know, that's Lawrence Weiner's joke, not mine. I won't be casting cultural aspersions until - and unless - I'm surer of my ground.

As for On Kawara, how did he commemorate April 8, 1973? With this postcard in the background of which an adult man can be seen to be explaining the importance of a tiny bottle of olive oil to the rest of his family. (I must stop this.)


ilhhthzmtoskuc0m002bu002bgow_thumb_d517 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

In the foreground of the picture can be seen a bust of Walter Scott at the entrance to the Public Gardens in Halifax. The Scot that so took the readers of the 19th Century by storm that, at one time, of all the books that had ever been printed and sold in the world, he was the author of half of them. I forget the source of that fact. But I clearly recall my astonishment at reading it. Though Charles Dickens's subsequent success meant that such a record didn't last for long.


Let me try and paint a picture of On Kawara in Halifax with the help of an enormous 455-page tome called The Last Art School: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design 1968-1978. It must have seemed like a good time for On Kawara to be visiting Nova Scotia, as Daniel Buren was artist in residence. Buren was the artist whose political gesture during the Guggenheim International group show in 1971 had upset several of the other participating artists, though On Kawara would seem to have been unbothered. Buren always dealt with the same width of coloured stripes on white background. He would insist on his right to be totally free to do what he wanted to do, aesthetically, while simultaneously criticising an institution or authority. He crops up on On Kawara's 'I MET list for Feb 15, 1971. In April 1973, there is a photo of him in white overalls sticking striped paper to the brick frontage of the main art school building while On Kawara was in Halifax. They met twice, April 7 and April 8.


April 8, 1973
Hiroko Hiraoka
Kasper Konig
Lili Konig
Hiroko Konig
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg
Daniel Buren

Hiroko, the Konig family, plus Daniel Buren. Daniel Buren and On Kawara became friends and remained so for the rest of On's life. They didn't meet on April 9. Perhaps they were both busy with their work.

dcfue67uqdu002b0025u002bx9hh7gq_thumb_d3f3 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


A sports page rather than anything more cultural? No symbolism where none intended. What does the day's 'I READ' show? Various articles whose headings read 'Concessions possible for family farms', 'Democrats want Watergate files' and 'Nuclear pacemakers implanted'.

Moving on. Let us consult The Last Art School. It allows us to see how On Kawara would have fitted into this particular art school, or any other art school for that matter.

Take April 12, 1973, for illustrative purposes. On Kawara got up and produced a postcard that he sent from 6136 Coburg Road. And he began a Date Painting by laying down four layers of background colour. With that done, he took a break (in my mind's eye) and wandered along Coburg Road. He posted his day's postcards and dropped into the art college. Walking through the Ann Leonowens Gallery - also the entrance to the whole art college - he passed through the door in the south east corner of the gallery and mounted the stairs to the Mezzanine Gallery.

In The Mezzanine, On Kawara scrutinised some of the brown and white material that was still stuck to the outside of the art college, over the brick exterior, from Daniel Buren's work of a few days before. Standing in The Mezzanine, On Kawara may have been aware that this was where his own Million Years Past had been installed for a single week of April, 1972. The only page (of 455, remember) in The Last Art School which mentions On Kawara substantially, is the one from which I've taken the image below:


xqwpvx8rr5uso0025hr2qqtiw_thumb_d72c Reproduced, I hope, with the forbearance of the copyright holder.

Why, in the whole book, is not a single mention made of the 1973 Date Paintings made while On Kawara stayed at 6136 Coburg Road as invited guest of Kasper König, director of Nova Scotia's publishing program? (Only three Date Paintings were made in April, 1973, but then, on his second visit, as we'll see shortly, six were produced in May, nine in June and nine in July.)

Why is there no mention of the 'I GOT UP' postcards Kawara sent in March, 1973 to Kasper König, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 6152 Coburg Road, Halifax, N.S.? Or of the postcards On sent from 6136 Coburg Road to Choyoshi Kawai in Santa Monica and J. Castlefors in Stockholm?

I think it's because On Kawara didn't deliver a lecture, or give an artist's talk, or offer tutorials to individual students. He wasn't particularly visible. Indeed, almost the only other person he met, other than the Konigs in this initial fortnight, was Daniel Buren, another visiting atrtist! Although On's work was championed by Kasper König and Dan Graham, who was a regular visiting Art Professor at Nova Scotia, popular with the students, this doesn't seem to have been enough for the students, or some of the teaching staff. There is the suggestion that the majority of students baulked at Million Years Past. What was this list of numbers from 1 to a million? Could it represent the people killed by the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima? If so, that was the wrong sort of politics for a North American art school!

Actually, although that started off as a facetious comment, I feel it could partly explain why On Kawara could not make himself take part in the day to day life of the art school. At some level the society that had produced these students had decimated his people. How could On stand up in front of them and talk about his art, as if the bombing had never happened? All he could do was his own thing, to further the survival of his consciousness and the maintenance of a moral high ground.

But I speculate. And I digress. Back to The Mezzanine. Its most popular exhibit was the one where John Baldessari, unwilling to travel to Nova Scotia because there was no money available for such a trip, suggested that the students be encouraged to scrawl 'I will not make any more boring art' on the walls of the gallery. And so they did.

This exercise went down so well that a lithograph was made at the college lithography department, and, four decades later, that lithograph was used to create the endpapers of The Last Art School.

'I will not make any more boring art' was installed in The Mezzanine in 1971. And yet just a few months later there was Million Years Past, which many of the students thought was the most boring piece of work ever made.

Cut to a much more popular visiting artist. Dan Graham came half a dozen times, once for six weeks. He had never been to art school as a student, and he took the opportunity of being a student while teaching. In particular, he took advantage of the audio-visual equipment, and the technical support for this department, which according to him was excellent. Dan Graham made film after precocious film. The Last Art College is littered with images of Dan filming himself in crazy ways. One photo shows him naked, filming a student (I presume) who Dan has persuaded to take her clothes off, in order to explore notions of subjectivity and self-consciousness.

I have a feeling that On Kawara would have enjoyed his solitary and solipsistic time at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, challenging though it may have been for him.




m8r1vfuqqkyttoxh46wmba_thumb_d3fa Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.



Let's, check out 'I READ', clippings sourced from Halifax's Chronicle-Herald, no less.

APR. 7, 1973: 'Astronomers discover most distant object.'

APR. 9, 1973: 'Concessions possible for family farms.'

APR. 12, 1973: 'Jospeh Howe stamp to be issued in May.'

I wonder if On was missing The New York Times.

After the initial ten days in Halifax, On flew back towards New York, landing in Boston. He and Hiroko spent three days there before returning to New York on April 17. Back in the Big Apple, On and Hiroko stayed again with Aoki at 97 Crosby Street. In the short month that On was in New York this time around, he saw Aoki eighteen times. While he saw Soroku Toyoshima nine times and the Naraharas the same number of times. As for Nobu Fukui, he must have been out of town, perhaps in Japan, as On and he didn't meet. By the middle of May, On Kawara would be heading back to Halifax, having made no Date Paintings in New York.

The postcards went from 97 Crosby Street to J. Castenfors in Stockholm. Johan Castenfors being someone that On befriended while in Sweden earlier in the year and who appears on 'I MET' lists from January 12 to 14.

All right, dear reader, now comes a significant statement. In 2021, when I first drafted this chapter, I had access to a single 'I MET', for May 3, which I dug into:


xx2kl8iarwo6gmunmnqcxq_thumb_d552 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


Putting each name into Google revealed that there were several artists with a 'significant other' present that day. Claes Oldenburg and his partner Hannah Wilkes, both artists. Ansell Bray and his partner, Dina Silberman, along with her son from a previous marriage, David. Masami Kodama and his daughter, Nana. I only know some of that information thanks to Ansell Bray who has a website with a contact page. Ansell was understandably cautious about responding to me until he had okayed it with Hiroko, whom he is still in touch with. Apparently, Hiroko said that what he communicated to me was entirely up to him, which I think echoes Million Years Foundation's attitude whereby they don't want to discourage my work. As of 2021, Ansell Bray spends some months each year in Cape Breton, rural Nova Scotia, where he fishes for salmon. Indeed, fishing was one of his links with the group of Japanese artists active in New York from the 60s. But let Ansell, who was the very first person that I tracked via 'I MET', respond in his own words to 'I MET' of May 3, 1973:


'Although On listed all the people he met on a given day, they were not necessarily all in the same place at the same time. I think he met some of these people in a different place than other people. It doesn’t sound like a mah jong gathering. Perhaps a dinner at the Kawashimas,  but it’s odd that Kawashima's wife and daughter Koko are not mentioned. Also Kodama's wife is not mentioned. Many Japanese wives worked as waitresses in Japanese restaurants in the evenings. I would think that is the reason.'

Just what I needed at the time: informed insight.

'Hiroko Hiraoka is On's wife. Hirotsugu Aoki at the time was doing work in the On conceptual style, then went on to have a model-making studio. I worked there for a time in the 1990's. Polichetti, Wilke, and Oldenburg I did not meet that day although I think I met him at another time. Azuma was a silk screen artist who had a studio at 14 Greene Street where I had a studio at that time. Dina S. Was my girl friend who is now my wife. David was her son from a previous marriage. Masami Kodama is still a dear friend. Nana Kodama was Masami's daughter who tragically died after open heart surgery at age eight. Atsuko Shabata I don’t recall. Anyway, this was not the first time I met On Kawara. I met him in the mid 1960's. I remember going to his studio with Kodama in the late 60s to see his one million year book. I will write more later.'

Emails from Ansell establish the importance of Takeshi Kawashima to the group of Japanese artists. He and his wife Toshiko took over the loft studio that had been occupied by Ansell Bray's artist friend, Arthur Rosenbaum, in Beekman Street, lower Manhattan. The Kawashimas, Ansell told me, were the key to him meeting On and many other Japanese Artists.

'After meeting Kawashima at Spruce-Beekman St.,we became friends and saw each other for dinners and social gatherings. Kawashima was very outgoing and seemed to be at the hub of a rather large group of Japanese artists living in New York. If you knew one you seemed to know them all. The artists I came to know included Masami Kodama, Kunio Izuka, H. Aoki, On Kawara, Shinohara, Toyoshima, Nobu Fukui, Norio Azuma, Shin Kinoshita, Kondo, Odate, Hiro Ihara, and others that I have forgotten or only made a brief acquaintance such as the Op Art artist Tadashi Kuaayama who I remember meeting in his studio making his paintings on a record player turntable.'

That's a long list of artists. But for my purposes in 2021, I stripped it back to a single one that is on the 'I MET' list for May 3, 1973. Takeshi Kawashima, whose diagrammatic, gridded work is quasi-figurative, quasi-biological, and, above all, quasi-erotic. It also has a mah-jonng tile ring to it.

Ansell Bray has kindly sent me a photograph taken in Japan in 2013, that features four of the people who appear on the May 3, 1973 list. Let's call it 'Forty Years On'.

From left to right under the cherry blossom and alongside Takeshi's second wife: Takeshi Kawashima, Dina Bray, Masami Kodama and Ansell Bray.That's only four of teh thirteen names that were on the I MET list. But it's something.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_d69c Reproduced courtesy of Ansell Bray.

Actually, I have been in touch with Takeshi Kawashima's second wife in spring of 2023. She told me that Takeshi was still alive, but that he couldn't do much without her help. I was hoping to get information from Takeshi, via his second wife, but I don't think that is going to happen. Back to Ansell Bray's narrative of the past:

'After a few years at Beekman St., Kawashima moved to 7 Dutch St. I also moved into the same building soon after. It was there that I first met On Kawara. He avoided parties and Art openings as he did not like crowds, saying that he could not keep a list of all the people he would meet at these large gatherings. He did however come to the mah jong gatherings at Kawashimas as the groups were rather small. These games would sometimes go on for days. People would play for hours then nap and get up and play again. Although a lot of beer (beru) and scotch (scotchee) was consumed at these parties, I don’t recall On ever drinking anything alcoholic.


Interesting what Ansell states about the mah jong games: 'People would play for hours then nap and get up and play again.’ I think this confirms what I'd concluded about On Kawara’s very late getting up times. I say yet again that in November 1969, in the 'I GOT UP' postcards sent to Lucy Lippard, On only got up twice before noon in the entire month.

One of the bonuses about being in touch with Ansell Bray was that I knew he might be a reliable first-hand source of information about On Kawara's and Hiroko's return to Nova Scotia in May of 1973. So let's turn to that.

On Kawara settled down to a period of Date Painting, as shown by this extract from his Journal:

mokgnjjmtdcw002biwe0025w002by7q_thumb_d3fb Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


As I mentioned earlier, with On having reduced his subtitle to the day of the week on which a painting was made, the work looks less political than previously. But 'I READ' was carrying on. Perhaps because the paper he was reading was a regional one, the news doesn't appear too disturbing or violent (or political or urgent). The main headline on the page for MAY 24 reads: 'Texans to exhume UFO pilot's body'. And for May 25: 'Space 'repairmen' start salvage today'. May 28: 'Astronauts settle to life in space'. May 29: 'Changes likely in committee'. I can envisage On Kawara smiling over much of this. And if I looked harder through his clippings I would surely come across: 'Tiny bottle of olive oil found unopened'.



JUNE

An odd thing about the aforementioned book, One Year's Production, is the reproduction of 'I WENT'. The maps are for June 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. This is in no way a random or balanced choice from the year. Indeed the first four maps are similar in that On goes out of Halifax (he's staying at 6136 Coburg Road again) to Musquodoboit Harbour.


sufsfzpas06jghq9f91sdw_thumb_d509 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

What did he do there? Well, I reckon he and Hiroko might have fished, possibly with Lili and Coco in tow. As it seems from the 'I MET' lists that Kasper and Ilka had left their children with the Kawaras while they were out of town.


kaphn002bd4rjie1xifgosacw_thumb_d50b Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Clearly, On Kawara (or Kasper Konig) was in control of the 'I WENT' maps that were reproduced in One Year's Production. On has not given the whole year of maps to the editor (Johan Gachnang) and said, 'pick what you like'. By focussing on these days, On (or Kasper) suggests that for him there is no life-art division. True, On has Date Painting days and he has fishing days. But one is not more important than the other. The fishing days complement the painting days.

The point of including June 1 to June 5 might have been to obliquely bring attention to those days when On and Hiroko were looking after Lili and Coco. Ilka and Kasper didn't come back to Halifax on June 6. In other words it's a private joke that only becomes public once you know a lot about the lives of those concerned.

I have not yet taken the opportunity of asking Ansell Bray about the goings on in Musquodoboit Harbour. But I have asked him about 1972, when On began his connection with Buttergrove Camp in the Catskills, fishing for trout on the Beaverkill River that runs through Roscoe. To which Ansell responded:

'On Kawara on the Beaverkill in June, July and August of 1972. I would have been a seasonal resident in Nova Scotia by then, summer and usually fall. On knew how to fly fish by the mid to late 1960s. On was not tied to a job like most of the others, so he could go when he wanted. The Japanese fishing group was an ever-changing cast of characters. I taught them to tie flies not how to fish. They probably learned that by osmosis, word of mouth and doing. On definitely would not have done his paintings while fishing. Trout fishing involved wading around in fast-moving water, not sitting on the river bank.'



And while sea fishing? On Kawara didn't do any painting while going back and forth to Musquodoboit Harbour either. However, the 'I WENT' reveals he didn't go to the harbour on June 5. And that day he did do a Date Painting. Here is his schedule of Date Painting for June:


kdnjvfv5soef00256002b8mnmplg_thumb_d3fc Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


A quick browse through 'I MET' shows that On didn't meet many people this month. Usually either Kasper and Ilka, or all four of the Konigs. An equally speedy look through 'I READ' reveals nothing much happening in the column inches of Halifax. The main headlines for each Date Painting day are as follows:

JUNE 5, 1973: 'Record income for Air Canada.'

JUNE 7, 1973: 'Navy adopts new tactics after gunboat rams frigate.'

JUNE 11, 1973: 'National US-owned oil firm.'

JUNE 13, 1973: Nixon orders 60-day enforcement.'

JUNE 16, 1973: 'Forest fire index.'

JUNE 17, 1973: 'ICCS aircraft fired on.'

JUNE 18, 1973: 'Nixon, Brezhnev open talks today.'

JUNE 23, 1973: 'Astrological forecast.'

JUNE 24, 1973: 'African Asians forcibly removed.'

If the headline-writer fancies being picked up by a national newspaper, I think he or she was going to have to up their game. If the 'national US-owned oil firm' refers to olive oil, then it should say so!

Gary Neill Kennedy was the Professor of Art at Nova Scotia. He didn't meet On Kawara during his first visit. But he has written this about the longer summer visit:

'Later, when On came to fish for salmon in Nova Scotia, and after all this 'still alive' stuff had been straightened out in my mind, I enjoyed spending an evening playing poker with him, his wife Hiroko, Gerry Ferguson and Kasper Konig, sitting around the College's boardroom table. It might have been On's very first poker game, as the rules seemed perplexing to him - when to bet, when to call, when to raise, when to stay and when to fold, etc. He was very cautious with each move.'

That's not very complimentary, and it must partly explain why On Kawara is more or less absent from The Last Art College. However, I should now be able to work out what date this poker game was played on. This one, I suspect:

pto002bgcvwso6cmklaszpvbg_thumb_102cd

In my opinion there should have been space for that page in The Last Art College: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1968-1978. But it was Garry Kennedy that edited that book, so there you go.



JULY

On Kawara worked pretty hard in July too.

ziv6cpmescway2vf0025hcmfa_thumb_d3fd Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Let's check out the 'I READ':

JULY 1, 1973: '35 nations meet in effort to stabilise peace.'

JULY 2, 1973: 'Cambodia bombing increased.'

JULY 3, 1973: 'Bermuda geared for hurricane.'

JULY 4, 1973: 'Little hurricane damage reported.'

JULY 5, 1973: 'Nixon, top Chinese envoy meeting today.'

JULY 6, 1973: 'Caste system contributed to 78 deaths.'

JULY 9, 1973: 'Prince Charles joins Bahamian festivities.'

JULY 23, 1973: 'Nova Scotia's highway toll.'

JULY 24, 1973: A blank page on which On Kawara has written (NO NEWSPAPER). This was a day when On got up in Halifax and went to Port Dufferin, so perhaps there wasn't an opportunity to buy a paper. Maybe that's the very day that something significant happened in the world per the journalists of the Chronicle-Herald. Something like: 'Little hurricane damage reported to tiny bottle of olive oil.' (One day I will go through this text and strip out all the olive oil references.)

A couple of other things to mention, in this low-key part of the year.

On Kawara met the writer, René Denizot, quite often between July 6 and about the 20th. On would have been discussing his work with René, who in 1974 was commissioned to write a text for One Year's Production. If the resulting text is anything go by, their talk would have been dismayingly intellectual. Between April 16 and June 22, René had received five 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams.

Transcription of conversation on any day between July 6 and July 20.

René: "Are you still alive?"

On: "Yes."

René: "On what basis do you make this claim?"

On: "I think therefore I am."

René: "Ah, but do you think? Can you be sure that it is you that is doing the thinking?"

And so on for four hours.

Between July 10 and July 22, On and Hiroko would have a number of day trips to Dufferin where they would stay at the Marquess of Dufferin and fish for salmon. Which would culminate in bigger expedition, about which more shortly, courtesy of Ansell Bray.



AUGUST

In Halifax, On Date Painted on August 4. Then he and Hiroko went on a trip further north in Nova Scotia. Here is 'I GOT UP' from August 7.

xavjckdftwu2ih0025pa6gfaq_thumb_d51b Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Let's bear in mind that two postcards were going out each day. On was sending moody landscapes to Dr Jost Herbig and slightly more twee scenes to a recipient in Japan who I know nothing about. I'll reproduce the pc for August 7 (as above) and the one that went out to the same person on August 9, courtesy of Tama Art Uni.

k0vwvoe7qfkns6kecfm7ua_thumb_102cf.78tf9c9lt0cjv9hlzhht9q_thumb_102d0

The 'I MET' shows that On and Hiroko were travelling from Port Dufferin back south and west to Halifax.

August 7, 1973
(In Port Dufferin)
Hiroko Hiraoka
Heather Higgs

(In Halifax)

Hiroko Hiraoka
Kasper Konig
Ilka Katharina Schellenberg
Dina Silberman
Ansell Bray


In Port Dufferin, Heather Higgs may have been their host, as she crops up on all the 'I MET' lists there. In Halifax, On and Hiroko hooked up with the Königs and the Brays.

The 'I WENT' confirms that On and Hiroko were in fishing country and that they returned to Halifax on August 7. The two-way arrow on the right edge points to ECUM SECUM. As we'll hear from Ansell Bray, that was a popular fishing spot.

xnu5b8rkr3mbqz4tki0025lpa_thumb_d6a9

Ansell Bray can tell us more, though I think these comments are partly generalised and partly refer to a subsequent fishing trip that August.

'On was at the Nova Scotia College of Art as a visiting artist. Dina and I met On and Hiroko at the Marquis of Dufferin motel on the south shore of the mainland east of Halifax N.S. The next day we fished for grilse on the Ecum Secum river. I have some wonderful moody photos of On fishing on the Ecum Secum.'

I don't know precisely which day Ansell Bray is referring to. Will I get to see and use the photos of On Kawara fishing on the Ecum Secum? Well, I hope so. The precedent that On set while he was alive was to allow a back view of himself at work on a Date Painting to be printed in On Kawara: SILENCE. And, for a more relevant precedent, there is this photograph:

d4v2vc6fs00252kpa141rhjha_thumb_d69d Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I've taken this image from the Phaidon volume, On Kawara, where it is spoken of by Seung-duk Kim, a curator from Le Consortium, Dijon, France, in the following terms:

'One of On Kawara's catalogues has as its frontispiece a photo showing two people on a country path photographed from behind. One of the men is the artist himself. Kawara never usually lets people reproduce his photograph in books, so he must have had a good reason for it this time. The photograph was taken by Hiroko. The other man is a fisherman whom Kawara met on his way to the river.'

Which country are they in? Which man is which? Is that On Kawara walking alongside Ansell Bray? I don't know. On Kawara had a special relationship with fishing folk. So let's have a photo of him taken by the fisherman-artist who knew him well. Not a particularly identifiable one, but a 'wonderful moody' image, a blurry photograph that is of On Kawara.

Me to Ansell Bray: 'It would be great to at least consider using the photos of On fishing on the Ecum Secum. I take it they wouldn’t be close-up or particularly identifiable - outdoor fishing photos don’t tend to be. But the fact that you would be assuring me that the photos were of On Kawara would give them gravitas and interest. Hopefully I could bounce the image or images off the ones in the postcards in an effective way.'

And there the matter rests for the moment, which has now stretched to two years. With me patiently fishing…

I've been told that after fishing for a few days on the Ecum Secum, On and Hiroko drove on towards Cape Breton. This postcard is again to Dr. Jost Herbig, the German who had bought eight Dates from May 1971 and had received 120 postcards from May to November, 1971. Only one of the moody 1973 cards to Herbig are reproduced in the Michelle Didier volume, and it's not this one.

lnanmkyvrkuwzqupq7to4a_thumb_d51f Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Ansell Bray is again my source of information about this episode. But first the 'I WENT', which shows that On and Hiroko woke up in Margaree Forks and did not leave the boundaries of the map during the 24-hour period.

rzogzne0025sdcgvw8o0oszgw_thumb_d51e Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

One can deduce that On and Hiroko fished at three different spots. First, near the top of the map. Second, middle right, near the word 'Emerald'. Third, close by, near the right edge of the map, where On waded into the middle of the river. Or at least that's how I interpret his red line.

Let's introduce Ansell Bray's narrative: 'After that [the Marquis of Dufferin] we made our way by car to Cape Breton. I believe On started fishing on the Ecum Secum for a while before we met. I think they stayed on the Margaree for about a week. I remember raising a large salmon one evening. They got up very early the next morning and went back to the same spot. I think it was Hiroko who hooked the fish, which proceeded to head back to the ocean. Needless to say the fish got away. I think they were duly impressed with the power of an Atlantic Salmon.'

I replied to Ansell: 'When you say you raised the salmon one evening, do you mean it took your bait but wasn’t hooked? Were you staying at your home and so didn’t need to stay at the Hillview Motel in Margaree? I think I said in an earlier mail that Ilka and Kasper were part of that trip. I think that may be an incorrect deduction. Perhaps you will know.'

Which elicited from Ansell: 'I can tell you that On and Hiroko came alone with Dina and myself.'

My correspondence with Ansell was in 2021, I've since received this beautifully simple 'I MET' confirmation from Art Gallery Ontario:

August 13, 1973
Hiroko Hiraoka
Ansell Bray
Dina Silberman

Ansell: 'They were in a separate car and followed us to Cape Breton. They stayed in the motel as our house at the time was a tiny hunter's cabin in the woods. Salmon angling in Canada is only allowed with artificial flies. No bait or lures are allowed. When a salmon “ Rises “, it means that he makes a big boil under the fly but does not take it.'

I took the opportunity to ask if there was a particular design of fly that On favoured for either trout or salmon fishing. I know On had a deep interest in both insects and aesthetics, so I'm sure he took the design of his flies seriously.

Ansell replied: 'l remember that On really liked to fish with dry flies. Although the big fish that they hooked in 1973 would have been on a wet fly because the water was high then. It was probably a Cosseboom which is very good in high water.'

I am getting into this. At one with nature. On Kawara versus the fish, with only a tiny hook of metal, dressed up as a juicy fly to help him. 'Mosquito needles' as Tatsuo Kondo described them in hie letter to an editor in Tokyo. (Or at least as his words were translated.) The fly would only have been any use to On if he could combine it with endless patience. Endless patience and an infinite line of nylon.

'Although the Kawaras only hooked the one fish in the Margaree in 1973, the very intense experience would draw them back.'

An essential difference between fishing and Date Painting, then. At the end of a day of endless patience while Date Painting, there would be a finished picture. At the end of a day of endless patience while fishing, there was very little chance of there being a landed fish.

As Kipling famously said, we must treat those two imposters - success and failure - just the same. What matters is the lived day. Self-consciousness, meditation; oneself and the universe connected by paintbrush or fishing rod. Ansell Bray, being a fisherman of long standing, puts it better: 'I cannot speak for what was going on in On’s mind about fishing and the experience of standing in a river but I think I have a good idea. For me fly fishing, especially for salmon, where you may spend hours or days in a quest to achieve a goal which may never happen, is a lot more than just catching a fish. The very beginnings of art were deeply connected to hunting and fertility. Acute powers of observation were necessary to be successful in hunting (fishing), this connects to the sacred, to meditation and to Art. When you fly fish all else fades into the background. I know all this may sound artsy and pretentious but, on the fly, it’s as close as I can call it at the moment. It is also an intimate connection to nature and beauty.'

On and Hiroko took a funny route back through Nova Scotia. What I mean is, after going to Margaree, towards the end of Cape Breton, they doubled back on themselves to stay in Sherbrooke. Before heading west to St John and out of Nova Scotia. So let's see what the attraction of Sherbrooke might have been. First, the Marine Motel:

dwiam6qiqw002b1xos1gz3fng_thumb_d521 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Nope, that in itself wouldn't have compelled a stop, except for the opportunity of more salmon fishing. What about the wider area? Well, if On and Hiroko had wanted another go on the Ecum Secum, travelling in the direction of Port Dufferin would have been the way to go. They could then have got to St John just about as easily.

hcjc140025rtscahuqhlf0025v2a_thumb_d520 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Saint John is not in Nova Scotia. In other words, the road trip was nearing its end. This is confirmed by the fact that On Kawara took up Date Painting again now that his fishing days were at an end.

On Kawara drove and he Date Painted as he and Hiroko made their way home.

dg6ytqohs5wu8hbxxwus1g_thumb_d6b6 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The stay in Saint John was just long enough to paint this.

fjb5bq4mru2k002bmligugmwq_thumb_d3f5 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


'I READ' is a page of cuttings whose biggest headline reads: 'Terrorist bombings continue in England.'

And the stay in Portland was just long enough to paint this.

gek7z002badrcokhewpijrikw_thumb_d3f6 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Note the word 'Kissinger'. The holiday was over. The real world was creeping back into the lives of the Kawaras. But hang on minute, the main headline stuck into 'I READ' claims: 'Sick Kittery sailor is reported first human encephalitis case.' Are you supposed to have to read a headline twice, and to to look up two of its words, in order to to work out exactly what is being said?

On August 24, On and Hiroko got back to New York. For On Kawara that was two big trips he'd undertaken in 1973, from Stockholm to West Africa, and from New York to Nova Scotia and back. Which left him with one more enormous trip to do. But first a month of hanging out in the Big Apple.



SEPTEMBER

A word here about the inside information I've received from Ansell Bray. Most of the people that are named on the 'I MET' lists are untraceable or dead. But I suspected that sooner or later I would manage to trace a few individuals, and I hoped that I would get information from one or more of them. I think it is a legitimate line of enquiry for a biographer to take, because On Kawara created the 'I MET' lists and put them (just about) into the public realm. Moreover, he underlined the fact that he had made this work from 1968 to 1979 when, with the assistance of Michelle Didier, he had it reproduced in a limited edition from 2004 to 2008. True, on balance, On Kawara may not have been entirely comfortable with the detailed picture I have put together of his and Hiroko's time in Nova Scotia, amongst other places. But by making 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET' it was always going to happen. Also, let's face it, I have only built up the detailed picture because of the artist's autobiographical skeleton. That is what I'm fleshing out. This is not biography for biography's sake. This is trying to follow up what I find mysterious, fascinating and redolent of living life to the full.

"On, Duncan, On," shouts a mysterious voice, urging me forward. I fancy it might be Ansell Bray's, but I haven't heard from him for a while. I hope he's all right and that he doesn't regret having granted me such precious information.

On their return to New York, On and Hiroko went straight to 97 Crosby Street, but only for three days. After that they stayed at 140 East 31st Street. I don't know whose address this was. It may have been rented by the Kawaras, but I think it's more likely to have been a friend's place, perhaps someone who was temporarily out of New York. Between August 29 and October 8, Nobu was met seven times, Aoki was met seven times, Soroku was met 15 times and the Naraharas were met 11 times. Fairly equal and substantial friendships, let's say. However, On and Hiroko saw Ikko and Keiko Narahara on each of the last four nights prior to taking off on their own ambitious road-trip across the United States.

I think that makes sense, because surely it was the Naraharas' road-trips of 1971 (one of which was to a music festival in Texas) to 1973 that were inspiring the Kawaras, though On would make the road-trip his own by rigorous adherence to Date Painting and his three self-observation series. Here is an Ikko Narahara photo from 1971 that was surely an inspiration behind On's next move:

q2q1u0pgr12p002b0itkbnmcw_thumb_f0a1 Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, the estate of Ikko Narahara.

How good is this next shot from 1972? Is that a caravan being towed, or the command module of Apollo 11, three years after splashdown?

phamkqfgrwury190025cftxaq_thumb_f0a8 Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, the estate of Ikko Narahara.

And here is third image of Ikko Narahara's. Check out the 'GAME ON' essay which takes you through Ikko's friendship with On Kawara in much more detail. But it's important at this stage just to underline the influence that Narahara had over the development of On's oeuvre.

0yefvradqakcneejop9svw_thumb_f099

For the last three days before they left New York, On and Hiroko stayed overnight at the Naraharas' address, as shown by the 'I GOT UP' cards. That is, they stayed at 24 East 22nd Street for the third, fourth and fifth times that year.

gqirla91sqaxwr002byvnfxtw_thumb_f14e.xaxpyjpoqigjza9zi4u002bqw_thumb_f14f rvbvd8ovtkso7rhljcfj6a_thumb_f152……ktwkb2qktea9cpakrgd6nw_thumb_f151 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.



PART THREE


OCTOBER

On October 9, On and Hiroko set off on a road-trip by car that would take them around the States in a great loop, basically going west before lingering in California and eventually turning south, then east, so that they were back in New York by the end of December. To what extent the stops were planned in advance, I couldn't say. But I imagine On and Hiroko had an idea of their itinerary from the outset.

What is the purpose of a road trip? To find out about the country one lives in? Or to find out about oneself? Perhaps a balance is struck between looking inwards and outwards. Certainly, if your name is On Kawara, and you're in the habit of spending hours each day (though not every day) painting the date, that has got to be the case. But only someone essentially interested in the world records a map of where he ventures on a daily basis and sends off a local postcard and reads the local newspaper.

The 'looking in' complements the 'looking out'. On could do that at home in New York, amongst the Japanese expat community, but it seems that in 1973, inspired by Ikko Narahara, he made up his mind to take his philosophy on the road. Where each new Holiday Inn, became a home-from-home. The first stop was Pittsburgh, where On and Hiroko arrived, had two days of Date Painting, then departed on the fourth day. All in all, there would be twenty stops, as represented by this map.

ppkagsqkseaqmrfbotl0025yw_thumb_d57c

On October 10, On Kawara sent a postcard from Pittsburgh to Konrad Fischer, the German dealer who had already received a sequence of 120 cards on Kawara's return from Mexico to New York, starting on April 1, 1969. He was the German gallerist who had shown One Million Years in 1971 and On Kawara's first solo show of Today Series in 1972. There would be further solo shows at his Dusseldorf gallery in 1975 and 1979. He would get 77 postcards this time around. But in a totally different context: a new place every few days.

As well as keeping Konrad Fischer in the loop (and whoever got the second postcard, which was Sol LeWitt in Indianapolis, St Louis and Topeka), On sent an occasional 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegram to Dr Jost Herbig (who'd bought eight Dates back in 1971). Namely from Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Most importantly, as On travelled, he Date Painted. Pittsburgh (2 DPs in 4 days), Columbus (2 DPs in 4 days), Indianapolis (1DP in 3 days), St Louis (3 in 5 days). The fifth stop was Topeka in Kansas:

October 20, 1973. Arrive.
October 21, 1973. Date Paint.
October 22, 1973. Depart.

I'm going to reproduce this 'I GOT UP' card because the relationship between the picture and the message side is particularly strong.

nplmp0t4sx2nw002bqphtfz0a_thumb_d58e

Sol LeWitt got the same card that day. Both the Holiday Inn, where On 'GOT UP', and the municipal auditorium, which is the building on the picture side of the card, can both be seen in the photo below, which comes courtesy of Google Maps. Though the hotel is no longer part of the Holiday Inn franchise and the auditorium is now called the Topeka Performing Arts Centre.

yfylxtbds7ii71cue6vtxw_thumb_ec68

From 'I WENT' we can see that On Kawara spent part of October 21, wandering in front of the hotel down towards the highway. That's the squiggle part at the southern end of the day's route .

7dizo0r3rnueflqtr0w3ka_thumb_d58f Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

And from there he would have been able to look back at the hotel or look across the highway at the auditorium. The Topeka Performing Arts Centre was advertising 'Infinity Dance Recital' in one of the Google photos I accessed. Which seems appropriate.

I suppose it's the work I've recently done on the 117 cards that On Kawara sent to Pontus Hultén in 1972 that made me realise that the picture side of the postcards might be more significant than I'd previously been assuming, even when travelling. The next stop, stop six, was Denver, Colorado. On Kawara made five date Paintings in nine days. The book, On Kawara: horizontality/verticality, reproduces one 'I WENT' and one 'I GOT UP' from this nine-day period, making for a formidable double-page spread. But to see the full ambition of what On Kawara attempted to do in Denver, one would need to see all nine 'I GOT UP' cards, for which we can (since summer 2023) turn to the On Kawara website of Tama Art University.

This reveals that as well as local topographical scenes, On Kawara used two postcards from Denver's Natural History Museum. No doubt he picked these up when he visited the Museum, and 'I MET' for October 23 and 24 goes some way to confirming this, though the museum is located just off the right margin of the 'I WENT'.

t0025ctocg6stsbs3fvo3bgtq_thumb_102c8.raitqjnqsiakhszchohlcw_thumb_102c9

On Kawara met no-one (except Hiroko) all the time he was in Denver, which was typical of many of the stops. He bought a newspaper the day after doing a Date Painting, as had long been his usual custom.

Stop seven was Santa Fe, New Mexico, where there was an arrival day, a Date Painting day and a departure day. It's also worth taking a close look at this postcard:

tlfik2gesie5njlhjltmzg_thumb_d5bf Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The picture on the postcard is a room that dates from before 1541. Thus it's a pre-Spanish Indian Pueblo. On Kawara loved this postcard. He sent it out to Konrad Fischer for the first two days of his three-day stay there. He sent it to Lucy Lippard on the third day, and I feel sure he sent it to Konrad for the third time that day also.

Located close to On Kawara's hotel? Well, let's check out the I WENT.

sewxzjp0025tqstxvvxbzgrbw_thumb_d5be Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The hotel is still there, called the Garnett's Desert Inn, in 2021. I see now (2023) that it's called El Sendero (the path). Very close by is the house that is shown in the postcard.

a70025n3jwirikk002bcznjviroa_thumb_eca5

The 'I WENT' for OCT. 31 shows that On Kawara more or less walked past the house on the Old Santa Fe Trail, though he didn't go in it.

Another great postcard for Konrad Fischer, then. But Konrad had another artist who would go on to do work in Santa Fe. And that is Richard Long. Konrad Fischer's gallery was a crucial supporter of both Richard Long and On Kawara, and below is a list of shows of these individuals held at Konrad Fischer's Dusseldorf (and occasionally Zurich) gallery from 1968 to 1995:

1968: Richard Long. "Sculpture"
1969: "Richard J Long"
1970: Richard Long "Eine Sculpture von Richard Long"
1971: On Kawara: "One Million Years"
1972: On Kawara: "Today Series"
1973: Richard Long "A Rolling Stone" (On Kawara would have received an invite in 1973.)
1974: Richard Long "River Avon Driftwood"
1975: "On Kawara" (Konrad Fischer promoted this show via a card that I will reproduce shortly.)
1976: Richard Long "River Avon Driftwood"
1978: "Richard Long"
1979: "On Kawara"
1980: "Richard Long"
1980: On Kawara "Date Paintings"
1981: "Richard Long" (Zurich)
1981: "One Million Years" (Zurich)
1982: On Kawara "Date Paintings" (Zurich)
1983: "Richard Long"
1984: "Richard Long"
1988: "Richard Long"
1990: Richard Long "Turf Line"
1991: "On Kawara"
1992: "Richard Long"
1994: Richard Long "Shenandoah Neanderthal"
1995: Richard Long "Walking Stones"
1995: On Kawara: "Red Paintings"


In 27 years, 16 solo shows by Richard Long and 9 by On Kawara. The only years that there wasn't a show of either On Kawara or Richard Long, apart from in the late '80s, was 1977 and 1993. It even looks as if Konrad Fischer tried to have a show by either Richard Long or On Kawara every year. That applies strictly in the nine years from 1968 to 1976. It's as if Konrad Fischer planned his annual exhibition strategy around the anchoring presence of these two weighty artists, who had so much in common: a self-contained personality, a globe-trotting habit, and a meditative process that drove a unique practice. Oh, yes, and both were advocates of 'less is more' and 'simple is complex'.

Richard Long and On Kawara were both on the autistic spectrum, I would suggest. Nothing wrong with that as far as I'm concerned. I feel rainbow-blessed every time I feel I may be on that spectrum as well. And Konrad Fischer? Here he sits in his Dusseldorf gallery. Awaiting the daily postcard from On Kawara? Postcards that he would later lend to Kasper König so that they could be included in On Kawara: horizontality/verticality. In this way the whole world came to be informed about the 'I GOT UP' series. Well, no, not the whole world, just an art loving bubble.

tpc6fpa4tw002b5awslvypzaa_thumb_d67b Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Let's say something else about postcards. The use of them as private view invitations, which also served as a record of the gallery's work and the artists who exhibited there, was regarded by Konrad Fischer as one of his inventions. Below is the card for his 1975 show of On Kawara, which consisted entirely of paintings made in 1973, the year under discussion.

g7ahsutlqkout002bxl2sh7sg_thumb_d6b7 Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

No Date Paintings from the road trip of October to December! I'll come back to that.

The significance of this show carries forward to the present day. For in Candida Hofer's book there are no fewer than five collections pictured which feature the above paintings. And only one collection that features a date in 1973 that falls outside this list (May 25, 1973). The latter belongs to a Brussels collector who would seem to have made a special effort to buy a Date Painting from each year between 1968 and 1979. That is, the length of time 'I WENT', 'I GOT UP' and 'I MET' went on. Respect to that anonymous collector. As for the rest, they simply bought what Konrad Fisher offered to them on a plate. The roll of shame (relatively speaking) reads:

DATE SOLD BY KF…………….DATE SOLD TO
July 1, 1973……………………..Hans Bohning Collection, Cologne, Germany
Jan 8, 1973; Jan 12, 1973
July 3, 1973; July 6 1973………Herbert Collection, Ghent, Belgium
Jan 9, 1973; Jan 11, 1973……..Andre Goeminne Collection, Nazareth, Belgium
Jan 10, 1973
July 9 1973………………………Private Collection, Deurle, Belgium
Jan 14, 1973
July 23, 1973; July 28, 1973…..Private Collection, Lauphein, Germany

In other words, a single show of 16 paintings put on by Konrad Fischer in 1975 almost entirely accounts for the European distribution of the Date Paintings that On Kawara made in 1973. Presumably the vast majority of those 85 paintings still belong to the Million Years Foundation and are stored in New York. Including all the ones made during the 1973 road-trip across the States. Those road-trip paintings are an exhibition waiting to happen, in my opinion. 2023 would have been the 50th anniversary of the making of them. 2073 will be the 100th anniversary. Perhaps it's a little soon to be making plans for that.

But let's travel with the 77 postcards sent to Dusseldorf in 1973. Two of Konrad Fischer's main clients were the Herberts. And the Herbert Foundation published a tribute to the gallery called The Konrad Fischer Years / 1964-1978. One of the texts is a panel discussion involving Kasper König. The discussion took place in 2018, more than twenty years after Fischer's death. KK tells the audience how he first met Konrad Fischer:

"I was visiting the Dusseldorf Art Academy, and Konrad was one of the students there alongside Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. While I lived in London, we stayed in touch and we became partners after I had moved to New York in the mid-60s. When we were partners, Konrad and I came up with the following agreement: I would introduce American artists and he in turn would suggest European artists he was in contact with, such as, among others, Richard Long. Konrad's idea was to present artists who had never been seen in Europe before. Economically speaking, it was a very intelligent viewpoint. The artists had to travel to Dusseldorf and remain there for at least three weeks because it would have been too expensive if they were travelling from America. It turned out to be a very significant strategic idea."

Possibly. But it doesn't apply to On Kawara. True, On Kawara was an artist who hadn't shown in Europe before, but after his experience at the Guggenheim International in 1971, Kawara had decided not to attend his own openings. He wasn't in Dusseldorf in connection with the 'One Million Years' show in 1971, or the show of Date Paintings that took place in 1972.

Back to Konrad Fischer when he was still at art school. According to Kasper:

"From the very beginning Konrad was always extremely well informed, invariably being the one student with the best current information. He was concerned with student politics but not from an ideological point of view, it was strictly related to power. At one point in 1967, he decided that he didn't want to be an artist anymore and started organising exhibitions under his own name. That indicated a very cool kind of consciousness. You could compare it to a rock 'n' roll musician who suddenly decides he would rather be a producer. In addition, I never heard him talking about art. He consistently avoided the aesthetic debate. Also, he pretended not to read, just as he pretended never to work."

Hang on, has Konrad Fischer turned into Andy Warhol?

"Konrad was an entrepreneurial individual, who claimed he had absolutely nothing to do. He didn't have a liking for the analytical discourse nor for making a stance in order to get a discussion going. He rejected discussions. In his student life at the Academy, he was always keen to find out what was happening without attaching any serious importance to it. He wanted to feel in control."

As far as I'm aware, that's exactly what Warhol did. Though it sounds a bit like On Kawara as well. Or Richard Long.

"Then again Konrad never made any compromises. When he made a decision, he persisted. He had a very well defined vision for the exhibition programme and his aesthetic demands were uncompromising."

Warhol ditto. Kawara ditto. Long ditto.

"After the Carl Andre exhibition, I asked Konrad to partner with me on a Bruce Nauman presentation. When I was in California, I saw several works created by Nauman, including some wonderful drawings. At the time, I had no idea who this artist was. He lived in San Francisco when I visited him. I was very enthusiastic, considering it to be something I had not seen before: highly reflexive, self-critical, probably more related to science and music than art. But Konrad had heard that Bruce Nauman was a Neo-dada, post-hippie kind of artist and that didn't exactly work for him. He was dogmatic and stubborn to a great extent."

And yet Bruce Nauman did show at Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf. 6 Day Week: 6 Sound Problems in 1968 and both Studies for Holograms and Untitled: Corridor Piece with Mirror in 1970. Perhaps it is Kasper König that is/was the stubborn one!

Back to Kasper König's narrative: "Innovative people who, in terms of politics, are completely regressive have always existed. They are individuals who don't have an inclination for change out of a certain self-centred point of view, only wishing to be involved in their own work. The same was true for Konrad, he wanted to come up with a fresh approach to exercise a new type of profession."

I think that applies not just to Konrad Fischer, but to many of his principal artists, in particular, On Kawara and Richard Long.

On Kawara: "Good evening. I am a regressive artist, in that all I believe in is the integrity of my own work."

Richard Long: "Good evening. I too am a regressive artist, in that all my time and energy goes into my own work."

Konrad Fischer. "Stop, stop, boys! No talking shop in front of potential clients! Get back to what you do best."

Good advice, Konrad. Hiroko would see that On took it.

Let me commemorate the German dealer further by posting extracts from a 1971 interview with Konrad Fischer that is reproduced in that little book published by the Herbert Foundation called The Konrad Fischer Years. 1964 - 1978.

"I have never felt so spontaneously enthusiastic about anyone as I did about Richard Long…."

"On the other hand, when something gets recommended to me, and I have a feeling I don't understand it - as with Kosuth's texts - then I leave it alone. And when he puffs himself up in 'Studio International', that's the sort of thing I can't take…"

So it's not just Dan Graham that has it in for Joseph Kosuth. It's Konrad Fischer as well.

"When I was an artist everything was so far away; Warhol, Lichtenstein and all those were unattainable great men. But when you know them, you can have a beer with them and get rid of your inferiority complex…"

kqiyfpguqassmxeuvkiopq_thumb_d70d Annotated with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

"I haven't got many clients - a doctor, a bank director, a foundry engineer - and a few in Italy, Benelux and England. But 50% of what I sell goes to other galleries…"

"What's important for me is not how to sell things but how to get information across to those who are interested, so that in due course the artists I represent get somewhere, and people say, "Fischer got the right man"…"

"I see myself as an art agent; this is a long-term job, you have to build up gradually, it's no use expecting to get what you want in three years…"

"There is no art that is easily consumable. Warhol or Van Gogh make just as many demands on one as Conceptual Art; it's just that with paintings people think they've taken it all in in one look. I believe that art is understood only by professionals…"

What an insightful interview. It confirms some of what Kasper König said in that public discussion, yet adds another dimension to Konrad Fischer's personality.

On Kawara's ninth stop was Las Vegas, a place that he'd once thought about getting a studio. He made three Date Paintings in nine days, so that gave him plenty time to take a good look around. The single 'I WENT' I've studied from this time was clearly a day of exploration, walking round Caesar's Palace, for instance. The 'I GOT UP' cards tend to be exterior views of casinos.

The tenth stop was Death Valley. On met no-one except Hiroko and went nowhere. They got out of there fast, just as everyone else does.

The eleventh stop was Los Angeles. This was a more sociable 5-day stay with Choyoshi Kawai - who On had sent postcards to in March and April - able to introduce On to James Turrell, amongst others.

Let's slow down to show a postcard from Sacramento to Konrad Fischer:

3deszfzrtca51vk8g9g2fa_thumb_d673 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara used a postcard of the hotel that he and Hiroko were staying at. In other words both sides of the postcard are the same. The picture is of the Imperial 400 Motel. On Kawara GOT UP at the Imperial Hotel at 10.04 A.M.

It looks as if On Kawara went into the Crocker Art Gallery that day. But so what? There is a single illustration in Conceptual Art, a Taschen art book edited by Daniel Marzona, consists of 'I GOT UP' postcards of this exact period. Not the first card to Konrad Fischer, but rather the second card to Ursula Meyer, who had published a book called Conceptual Art in 1972. Clearly On Kawara must have been impressed with that book, which I have just ordered.

g9gontw7sc002bgxrun9hfqdw_thumb_d709 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The card reproduced on the right of the middle row, suggests that On Kawara must have picked up a postcard at the Crocker Gallery. The picture side is unusual in that it's not a view of somewhere in the city that On Kawara was visiting. Instead, it's a Breughel painting that can be seen at the Crocker. 'Feasting and Dancing in Holland' is its official title. How about 'The Sausage Dance' for short?

bhcwpdgvrduzbhlmvf7zlq_thumb_d70c

This card was sent to Ursula Meyer on November 26th, when On was still in Sacramento. Did the same card go to Konrad Fischer? Tama Art University says no. Although there is a similar sense of exuberance about it, this time focussing on a single family rather than the whole community. Post-sausage dance, shall we say?

4yvitt60sy002bcdoukwwkfsw_thumb_102ca

Let me try something.

mh8r4abhtka5de002bgc0025zodq_thumb_eca8

Just to be clear. That's both November 26th's I GOT UP postcards marked on a detail from November 25th's 'I WENT'. November 25th's 'I GOT UP' would be both 'Postcard side A' and 'Postcard side B' at the hotel, towards the right side of the map.

Actually, that's not very clear, is it? What I'm trying to do is show how On Kawara tended to see the connections between everything. Exploring these new cities allowed his mind to go into overdrive making connections between the picture postcard, his temporary address and the 'I WENT' map.

I wonder why On Kawara returned to Los Angeles after the two meeting-less days in Sacramento. Presumably because he and Hiroko knew people there. He didn't do any Date Paintings this time and stayed a week. That is, he arrived on November 27 and departed on December 7. He met as many as nine people on November 28. But this day was more typical:

December 4, 1973
Hiroko Hiraoka
Claire Copley
Choyoshi Kawai
Hiroshi Morimoto
Kana Kawai
Michael Asher

Claire Copley ran a gallery in LA; Choyoshi Kawai was getting postcards from On earlier in the year; Hiroshi Morimoto was an artist and is now still involved in the arts; Michael Asher crops up now and again in this narrative. Some kind of friendship group based on the arts, then.

Four of the cards to Ursula Meyer tell a story. OK came back to the Holiday Lodge on 1631 West Third Street and stayed there for one night, Nov 27. But he or Hiroko couldn't have been happy about something, because he moved to another hotel a little further west along the same street. That is, Nutel Motel at 1906 West Third Street.

Then to San Diego for three days. Again, no-one was met apart from Hiroko. On Date Painted on December 8 (I READ: 'Gunmen kill man, shoot boy in Belfast') and on December 10 (I READ: 'KIdnappers abduct Fiat aide in Italy').

Back to Los Angeles for the third time, from December 11 to the 24th. No Date Painting at all. Socialising with the LA art community, including Chris Burden. Here are the people MET on two sample days:

December 12, 1973
Hiroko Hiraoka
Choyoshi Kawai
Kana Kawai
Noboru Kawai


December 14, 1973
Hiroko Hiraoka
Riko Mizuno
Hiroko Fujibayashi
Tamara Kondertief

Chris Burden
Barbara Burden
Vija Celamins
Daniel Davis

Riko Mizuno is a Japanese artist/gallerist. She had a gallery on the La Cienega Boulevard in LA. The time in LA reminds me of the sociable time On and Hiroko had in Sao Paulo back in December 1968, five years earlier, though the Japanese community is larger in Sao Paulo.

And on On's 41st birthday?

December 24, 1973
(In Los Angeles)
Hiroko Hiraoka
Don Kirk
(In Phoenix)
Hiroko Hiraoka


A road-trip is not the best time to celebrate a birthday. Never mind, On, you have Hiroko to celebrate with. As I'm sure you did.

Just before we pass on to the mad dash home to New York, let's summarise what's been happening through the road-trip thanks to the book One Year's Production, which Kasper Konig produced workings for. I'm showing this as a table but you might also want to picture it in the format of the log book that On Kawara kept with the date stamped in column one, and two double columns for the names of the two recipients. That is the book that was glimpsed in photo taken while On Kawara was in residence in Stockholm.

Postcard one (total 77):
77 to Konrad Fischer (Dusseldorf)

Postcard two (total 77):
6 to K. Cook (Halifax)
8 to Sol Lewitt (New York)
13 to Lucy Lippard (New York)
15 to Roger Mazarguil (Paris)
18 to Ursula Meyer (New York)
17 to D+H Vogel (New York)

Each set may tell a single story or perhaps a double story. Was the story of the road-trip told to Konrad Fischer in Germany essentially the same as the road-trip told to the six other recipients, three of which were based in New York? We may never know, not least because postcards sent to Dorothy and Herbert Vogel have not been reproduced anywhere.

But what I can say is that Kasper Konig included all the postcards sent to Konrad Fischer in the show he curated in 1974, also called 'One Year's Production'. But when On Kawara sat down to produce 'I GOT UP' in 2008, in conjunction with Michele Didier, he made amore complex choice. The first six cards sent from Pittsburgh and Columbia, he went for Konrad Fischer. Then for the next eight days, cards sent from Indianapolis, Saint Louis and Topeka, he chose the eight cards that went to Sol LeWitt. Back to Konrad Fischer for the nine cards sent from Denver and two of the cards sent from Santa Fe. Then to Lucy Lippard for the same Santa Fe card sent on the third day there, and then the three cards sent to her from Flagstaff. Back to Konrad Fischer for a long, long sequence of cards taking in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles again, San Diego and fnally Los Angeles for the third time. No less than 32 cards posted to Konrad Fischer from LA alone. The very last card included in the 2008 volume was a reconstruction of the lost or otherwise unavailable card to Dorothy and Herbert Vogel. Quite a roller-coaster ride in terms of cities visited and recipients.

On and Hiroko met no-one on the way back two New York. The distance between Los Angeles and the first stop on the return journey, Phoenix, is 372 miles. Nearly seven hours of driving. As well as the 'I MET' lists showing just Hiroko's name, there was an 'I WENT' produced in the morning of December 24th showing On and Hiroko leaving LA. And a second 'I WENT' was produced for the evening of the 24th showing them arrive in Phoenix. Then On Kawara rose on the morning of the 25th to make this postcard and sent it to one of his recently met L.A. contacts.

2oejx5ubsmuwopejbkgtfq_thumb_d678 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Note the postcards weren't going to Konrad Fischer anymore. The first card went to Claire Copley who had a gallery on La Cienega Boulevard (as did Riko Mizuno) in Los Angeles. Of course, Los Angeles! The second card went to Herbert and Dorothy Vogel.

Four hundred and thirty miles from Phoenix to El Paso. A drive time of about six hours. What did they do to help pass the time?

Hiroko: "What's been your favourite day of the year?"

On: "March 20."

Hiroko: "Good answer."

On: "Yours?"

Hiroko: "August 13."

On: "The salmon got away though."

Hiroko: "Did it? I still seem to have it swimming round my mind."

shxrpiyps460akn6cg8ykg_thumb_d67a Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Two hundred and eighty miles to the new day's destination. A drive time of four hours towards New York while the I GOT UP card goes back to LA. An 'I WENT' map was produced on arrival at this Texan town and maybe there was some time for sight-seeing. Then on the morning of the 27th it seems they made their way (with a detouring loop to see somewhere? I'm not even going to check it out because they were so in 'heading home' mode) to the interstate highway going east towards Dallas…Three hundred and fifty miles this time. Which would have taken just over five hours, plus an hour for lunch. A long, long drive. Enlivened by this exchange?

Hiroko: "I've been thinking about the next show in Dusseldorf. The basis of it could be one Date Painting from each of fifteen stops on our road- trip. And that would be juxtaposed with all the 'I MET' lists, each of which would have my name on it. Most of them with just my name on it, in fact."

On: "A Date Painting from 15 stops on the road-trip sounds good. But I think Konrad is more likely to play that against the full set of 'I GOT UP' cards that I've sent him."

Hiroko: "The On and Konrad show rather than the On and Hiroko experience?"

On: "To tell you the truth, I think he'll probably just keep it simple and avoid the road-trip. 16 Date Paintings from Stockholm and Halifax!"

I reckon they would have got to Dallas about 4pm assuming they'd set off at ten in the morning. An 'I WENT' map was produced on arrival and maybe there was some time for sight-seeing. Then on the morning it seems they made their way to the interstate highway east out of Texas and on towards Missouri…Four hundred miles. A six-hour drive assuming an average driving speed of 70 mph. Which would have taken just over five hours, plus an hour for lunch. And after lunch, to amuse themselves?

Hiroko: "I'm still thinking about the next Dusseldorf show."

On: "Oh, yes?"

Hiroko: "I'm thinking that Konrad might drop the Date Paintings altogether and go with the 'I MET' lists and the postcards.

On: "The Hiroko and Konrad experience."

Hiroko: "Sure."

On: "I wonder if Konrad will name his next child after you. Then one day Hiroko Konig could be introduced to Hiroko Fischer."

Hiroko: "Coco meet Hifi!"

I don't think they would have got to Jackson before 5pm. Travel weary and hungry. Oh the joys of road-tripping! Then on the morning of the 29th, a truly self-referential postcard classic, made in Mississippi:

6pu5ikojroalq4uctcewqg_thumb_d738 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On and Hiroko may have breakfasted at the hotel. Then it seems they made their way to the interstate highway south towards Atlanta, Georgia…Nearly four hundred miles. On driving, of course. A seven-hour drive is what's suggested by Google. And to entertain themselves?

On: "I've got a new vision for the next Dusseldorf show."

Hiroko: "Oh, good."

On: "First the Date Painting that I made on October 31, 1973, in Santa Fe."

Hiroko: "Uh-huh."

On: "Then the postcard I sent that day to Konrad Fischer and the one I sent to Lucy Lippard."

Hiroko: "Two pictures of the old house. Getting up time, whatever"

On: "Plus the 'I MET' for October 31, 1973."

Hiroko: "HIROKO HIRAOKA !"

On: "And lastly the framed text that Richard Long made following his stay in Santa Fe."

Hiroko: "A joint show of On Kawara and Richard Long, those top-hot dogs! But what does the text say?"

On: "Something about walking for seven days along the east bank of the Rio Grande."

Hiroko: "Big feet and small hands."

On: "What?"

Hiroko: "That would be the name of the show."

And that's it, more or less, after Atlanta. End of year. What a blast. Stockholm, Europe, Africa; the Canadian experience; and finally the road-trip of a lifetime, from New York to Los Angeles and back. I wonder, dear reader, if you are as exhausted as On and Hiroko must have been. I wonder if you are as blown away as I am by the life they were carving out for themselves. Let me end with an exchange between them in the middle of the road-trip:

On: "Does it matter whether it was Hotel Translantique or 302 East 13th Street or 6036 Coburg Road or Holiday Inn, Jackson, Mississippi, we woke up in?"

Hiroko: "Not really."

On: "What matters is - say it with me, Hiroko…"

"WE GOT UP."



POSTSCRIPT

Much of the above was written in 2021 though it was seriously updated in 2023. I'm returning to this 1973 essay for a second time in 2023 in order to see how On's Date Painting technique was coming along. Were templates being used? To decide about this I'll focus on the number 3, which crops up in every Date Painting he made in the year.

I'll show two examples of the number 3 from 1966. Then the only example I've got from 1967, the year of the template. Then a 3 from as many months as I can in 1973. Here goes:

From APR. 13, 1966 and MAY. 23, 1966.

4qzfdgwisxkwr002bqvorcusq_mini_ec40.v7lkvxmxtisikacr9002bsepg_thumb_ec51

These are not very similar. But what they do have in common is a bottom half that's wider than the top half. Which you can see by scrutinising the front edge, from top to bottom, and similarly the back edge.

From NOV. 3, 1967:

ddpnvwyytaqs5keejf6ptw_mini_ec52 In this case, the two halves are very nearly equal. And so the black 'circles' inside the top loop and the bottom loop are equal, or very nearly so. See how differently sized these black areas are in the 1966 figure 3s.

When we go to 1973, we find that the bottom halves are bigger than the top halves again. I know the sloping 7 doesn't help compare the front edge, top and bottom, but I can't seem to omit the 7 in the image, there are limits to the magnification I can work with.

9 JAN, 1973:

gvwe70sss1002byizh8y5vtcq_mini_ec53

18 FEB, 1973:

p6dihbz9tr2ri4zzpq9002bua_mini_ec55

MAR.14, 1973:

jxijpsufts002bdtsim9tb8wq_mini_ec56

APR.15, 1973:

tun00025mxpqzknlckef02utw_mini_ec58

AUG. 24, 1973:

h5o59iehqvclc5rlt0025aoea_mini_ec59

OCT. 26, 1973:

madoue90q6ookmynidhsqa_mini_d584

NOV. 7, 1973:

hlptiojisrce4siwobamgg_mini_ec5b

Finally, DEC. 30, 1973, which gives us two examples of 3. Again the bottom half bulges out, ever so slightly, front and back. I would also suggest that the middle of the figure 3 (in 73) is showing almost a double thickness compared to other 3s in the year, and especially compared to the 3 from 1967.

omks3dkltb6rdrhkkiilug_mini_ec5c

So the conclusion is that On Kawara wasn't using templates as he moved from Stockholm to Africa to Nova Scotia to America.

1973. Take a bow, On Kawara. The applause just goes on and on. For a hundred years, a thousand years, a million years. A million years? I say again, that's asking a lot of the universe's attention span.

Next chapter.