1979







INTRO


So much to achieve in this last chapter. Would it help to spell that out from the start in a little more detail? On balance, probably not. Let's just take it chronologically, with two significant changes of pace, and hope that the awkward, challenging content will settle down inside such a structure.




ONE

Back (from Hong Kong and South Korea) in Japan, On and Hiroko were again staying with the Ishibashis.

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


So On and Hiroko were staying at the same place they'd been staying before the Hong Kong and Seoul trip. The Ishibashis' house familiar from December 1970 and January 1971, when On Kawara had come to Japan on his own.

I'm colour-coding the corresponding 'I MET' as I think that helps spell out the interconnections.

January 1, 1979
(In Tokyo)
REIKO ISHIBASHI
YUKIO ISHIBASHI
HIROKO HIRAOKA
FUMIKO HIRAOKA
MICHIO HIRAOKA
AKITO KAWAHARA
FUJIKO HIRAOKA
MASAAKI HIRAOKA
YASUNORI HIRAOKA

Everybody else met on Jan 1st was a member of the Hiraoka family. Hiroko's mother and father (I presume) and three other members of her family. Did the Hiraokas come en masse to the Ishibashi house where On was staying? The 'I WENT' just has a single red line which disappears off the right edge of the map with the words 'Tokyo Station'. It's possible that On and Hiroko stopped off at the Hiraoka household on the way to the station.


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

January 1, 1979
(In Kariya)
HIROKO HIRAOKA
AKITO KAWAHARA
JUNJI KAWAHARA
UTAKO KAWAHARA
TONE ISHIBASHI

I think the Kariya house must have belonged to On's side of the family. The home of Junji and Utako, On's parents? Clearly, On, Hiroko and Akito travelled from the Hiraoka family to the Kawaharas. That is from Tokyo in mid-Japan, south to Kariya by fast train, passing Mount Fuji, roughly half way between the cities, en route.

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

0025gh8lw6ustqe002bladhs3egg_thumb_dcee Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

I wonder if by this time six-year-old Coco had decided that all those postcards to Lili seemed like a much better present than a single Date Painting, no matter what her mother said to emphasise how special the Date Painting was. Surely, Uncle On could start sending postcards to herself instead of Lili?

I'm assuming that the address on the above card is that of On's parents. Google Maps shows it to be a fairly large house on what appears to be a suburban estate of some style. Many of the adjoining houses have solar panels. But that's now as opposed to then.

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

unadjustednonraw_thumb_dcf7 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

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


January 2, 1979
(In Kariya)
HIROKO HIRAOKA
AKITO KAWAHARA
JUNJI KAWAHARA
UTAKO KAWAHARA
TONE ISHIBASHI
EMIKO MAEDA
YUZO MAEDA

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

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January 2, 1979
(In Tokyo)
HIROKO HIRAOKA
AKITO KAWAHARA
FUMIKO HIRAOKA
REIKO ISHIBASHI
YUKIO ISHIBASHI
KOICHORO ISHIBASHI
MICHIE ISHIBASHI

On and Hiroko did not leave the baby in Kariya. The presence of Koichiro and Michie in Tokyo means that all five of the Ishibashis that On and Hiroko met on December 20 have been caught up with again, after the trip to Hong Kong and Seoul. The fact that Tone Ishibashi - Reiko and Yukio's oldest child - was met in Kariya and not Tokyo this time around, makes me think that the Ishibashi family might be a branch of the Kawahara family. Perhaps Reiko Ishibashi was On's married sister. But that may not be the case.

Next day:

January 3, 1979
REIKO ISHIBASHI
MICHIE ISHIBASHI
HIROKO HIRAOKA
KOICHORO ISHIBASHI
YUKIO ISHIBASHI
AYUMI KAWAHARA
FUMIKO KAWAHARA
JUN KAWAHARA
EI KAWAHARA

What has happened to Akito? He is probably staying with the Hiraoka family having been picked up by Fumiko before On was awake. As for the Kawahara family, they would seem to be guests of the Ishibashis. And they are not the Kawaharas that were met in Kariya, as they have different forenames. As I said, I assume the Kawaharas and the Ishibashis are related. This same family of four Kawaharas was met on January 2, 1971, just for the day.

Next day:

January 4, 1979
FUMIKO KAWAHARA
JUN KAWAHARA
REIKO ISHIBASHI
YUKIO ISHIBASHI
KOICHORO ISHIBASHI
MICHIE ISHIBASHI
HIROKO HIRAOKA
AKITO KAWAHARA

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

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

Although the subtitle of the piece is the day of the week in Esperanto, the addition to the 'I READ' file is from a Japanese newspaper. Unlike his time in Japan in 1971, he was reading the Japanese press. Evidence of a degree of reconciliation with his own culture?

5wwkgoegs1cwe4mtpdui4w_thumb_103eb Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

All the red lines and characters on this cutting were put there by On Kawara.



January 5, 1979
YUKIO ISHIBASHI
REIKO ISHIBASHI
KOICHORO ISHIBASHI
MICHIE ISHIBASHI
KAZUO OKAZAKI
TAMAKO OKAZAKI
YORI SUZUKI

New surnames, Okazaki and Suzuki, suggesting the family celebration is widening out. Kazuo and Tamako were the other couple that On visited in December 1970, associated with a gallery not far from where the Ishibashis lived in Tokyo. It would seem that both Hiroko and Akito were with the Hiraoka side of the family that day. It's very good this sharing of the child. Akito's life support system was not confined to his parents, but extended to the heart of both the Hiraoka and Kawahara families. Lucky boy. But, of course, such a life support system was only available in Japan. Though having said that I'm sure the Japanese-American community in New York was a supportive one.

On met the Ishibashis on each of the first fifteen days of the year. On, Hiroko and Akito said goodbye to the Kawahara side of the family on January 13 and the Hiraoka side on January 15. A job well done, I suspect. Old relationships strengthened and new ones forged. Then they flew back to Seattle, on the west coast of the United States, and stayed there for three days before returning to New York.

hdjjqakxrd6lnavuzxlrrw_thumb_dcef Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


I can envisage that there could have been dissent in the König household about whether it was right that Lili got "every, single, blooming postcard. Couldn't Uncle On be bothered to write me a single one?" Cue Ilka coming up with some words of wisdom to keep her younger daughter feeling in the loop of love.

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

rqcqq5mvrmwnafmjwdbpya_thumb_dcf6 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.


I presume they stopped off in Seattle for Akito's sake, to break up the flight. Also, On hadn't been there before. It was perhaps an opportunity to see if Date Painting could be done on the move with Akito as part of the party? On made one Date in the three days:

1i1pmxbhsao8xlvtpdmhpa_thumb_dcea Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.



The single cutting on the 'I READ' sheet concerns the Shah of Iran going into exile. The Shah may have been fleeing his home, but On was back in his. The Big Apple!



TWO

In New York, postcards continued to go to Lili Konig in Munich.

fiff8dcssxeq0025eqww6hjtq_thumb_f2c4.fjw392vaqvwhpreisqco3q_thumb_f2c5 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Maybe Ilka had to ask Kasper if he could intervene.

"Could you mention to On that Coco would love to receive a few 'I GOT UP' cards."

"It's not a game that On is playing, Ilka."

"Isn't it? That's exactly what I thought it was."

Let me also reproduce the 'I MET' lists for these two homecoming days. Every name is significant. But I want to dwell on two of them as an intro to focussing on just one name:

ezf0ga1eruu1yjvkfrksnw_thumb_103e7.teu8q9iwqooa5uwf002b0025xaww_thumb_103e8 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Two of On Kawara's closest friends crop up on these sheets. Aoki an the left and Nobu on the right. It seems a long time since I said much about either of them. Nobu is the one who answered some emails of mine and revealed that On used templates to help with his Date Painting. He told me about mah jongg parties at his rented loft at 53 Greene Street and explained the importance of the purchase of 132 and 140 Greene Street in 1975.

Now, of course, I would have liked to communicate with Aoki as well, to ask him questions about his appearances on 'I MET' lists and about the batches of 'I GOT UP' cards he received. And I would like to read anything at all that Aoki chose to write to me about his dealings with On Kawara. Someone was able to suggest an intermediary, and I wrote to this person as follows:

'On Kawara was a very private artist. No photographs. No public statements. He also commanded strong loyalty from a close-knit group of artist friends. That may be why Aoki doesn’t mention him in the online SoHo Stories interview. So it may not prove possible to get his co-operation. But I’d like to try. I like to think I will be approaching the whole subject with discretion and respect.'

The go-between wrote back a few days later and the response was what, I have to admit, I'd been anticipating: 'Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately, Hirotsugu Aoki has declined to speak with you about On Kawara, for all the reasons you might guess.'

So where did that leave me? The only things online were a Charity Robey article, the aforementioned Aaron Shkuda interview and Aoki's own Facebook page. This last is something I've investigated in the GAME ON section, in this essay. The 2020 article by Charity Robey, ends with quick answers from Aoki to nine questions, five off which I'll list here, in the hope that she won't mind my taking this liberty:

What do you always have with you? A camera.

What exasperates you? Mr. Trump.

Favorite movie? ‘The Deer Hunter.’

Favorite person, living or dead, who is not a member of the family?  The painter, Vermeer.  

Most respected elected official, present or past? Mr. Obama.

Four of the answers are, I reckon, perfectly reasonable. The other one screams off the page. For although The Deer Hunter made a huge impression on me when I first saw it as a 22-year-old in 1979 (I emerged from a London cinema, stunned), I later realised that in the depiction of the Viet Cong, Asians are seen as less than human. In particular, there are scenes where the Viet Cong subject their American prisoners to games of Russian roulette. Anyone who refuses to take part in the contest is put in a bamboo cage full of live rats and dead men. Those that reluctantly do take part, blow their brains out, or at least half of them do. An utterly fictional and racist scenario if ever there was one.

The film is set in Viet Nam in 1968, when On Kawara was touring South America with Hiroko. His sub-titles would sometimes refer to the Viet Nam war, though in a restrained way. After all, he was getting his quotes from Mexican and South American newspapers, far removed from the action. Here are a few examples translated from Spanish into English:

April 27, 1968
'Demand for peace in Vietnam by students in New York, in Prague, in Copenhagen, in La Plata, in Tokyo, in Rome, etc.'

May 5, 1968
'The Vietcong attacked Saigon and a dozen South Vietnamese cities earlier today with mortars and other weapons.'

May 21, 1968
'"Notwithstanding the warlike and demanding language of North Vietnam, the United States stands ready to seek paths that lead to peace in Southeast Asia," Ambassador Averell Harriman, President Johnson's personal representative of the United States, said today at the talks in Paris.'

June 13, 1968
'A powerful Titan 3 rocket launched eight artificial military communications satellites into orbit today to speed up the delivery of messages between the United States and Vietnam.'

Feb 23, 1969
'Guerrillas of Vietcong will return to bombard Saigon this afternoon, the second consecutive day of their current offensive during which they will attack 18 provincial capitals, more cities and military bases throughout South Vietnam.'

Meanwhile, in 1968, Mike and Nick (played in The Deer Hunter by Robert de Niro and Christopher Walken) had been enlisted and torn from their 'normal' lives in a steel town in Pennsylvania (one local custom was to form male hunting parties whose goal was to take out antlered stags with single shots fired from distance). They had gone to Viet Nam as soldiers and been captured by the Viet Cong.

The Deer Hunter was filmed in Thailand, an entirely different part of Asia, in summer of 1977. The Russian roulette scene was filmed on the River Kwai. Let me quote Wikipedia: 'The woman who was given the task of casting the extras had much difficulty finding a local to play the vicious individual who runs the game. The first actor hired turned out to be incapable of slapping De Niro in the face. The casting agent then found a local Thai man, Somsak Sengvilai, who held a particular dislike of Americans, and so cast him.' 

The Deer Hunter debuted in New York for a week on December 8, 1978. This was so as to qualify the film for Oscar consideration.  On was still in New York that week but it doesn't seem to me that he went to see the film, he would be getting ready to go to Japan with Hiroko and Akito. After the Oscar nominations, Universal widened the distribution to include major cities, building up to a full-scale release on February 23, 1979, just following the Oscars. That's when the film would have been showing all over New York, supported by loads of publicity and rave reviews. That's when On may have seen it, either with Hiroko or one or more of his close friends.

Now On met Aoki ten times in February of 1979 (he met Nobu twice and Soroku seven times) but it's obviously impossible for me to say that they went to a cinema together. So I can't say that they watched the film, or talked about its - conscious or subconscious - racist agenda. At some stage, I'm fairly sure they would have watched it - together or apart - and discussed it. Otherwise, Aoki wouldn't be mentioning it decades later as his 'favourite' film!

Which gets us back to the question: how can The Deer Hunter be Aoki's favourite movie? Has he given a facetious answer to Charity Robey? Or is it more complicated than that?

The way I choose to explore this is, in part, by reversing roles. I mean, instead of Robert de Niro and Christopher Walken as the fully human protagonists, let us have On Kawara and Hirotsugu Aoki. Where are we going to set the scene? Shall we say at 132 Greene Street? After all, Aoki had carpentry skills. He could make an appropriate filmset, with On's help. The six less-than-human American soldiers needed for this scene could have been picked up from the streets of Soho, I'm thinking. I mean competent, white actors, obviously. There is no reverse racism going on in this essay.

The soldiers and their leader then, surrounding On and Aoki who are both tied up and being tortured to play Russian roulette

"These barbarians," says On. "These thugs. Go ahead, Aoki. It'll be all right. Go on."

Aoki tries to make himself pull the trigger. He closes his eyes. Click. Empty chamber. A shudder of relief goes through his body. So now it's On's turn. But On wants to play a new game.

Are you following this, dear reader? 132 Greene Street is a river in Viet Nam. The Russian roulette takes place on the deck of a boat surrounded by bamboo cages set in the water. (Set designed by Hirotsugu Aoki.) On and Aoki 'GOT UP' at 10.22 am or 11.51am or 2.22pm. Every time they awoke from shallow sleep they shuddered at the prospect of the day in front of them and lapsed back into unconsciousness. Now they were wide awake and no mistake.

"We do three bullets," says On. "One. Two Three." He lifts up three bullets from the table so that the surrounding American soldiers know what he is saying. That shuts them up. They discuss the new situation. Then one G.I. put his money on the table. He is up for this crazy bet with the mad Jap with a death-wish.

The pitiless officer is cautious. But he can't resist the situation. After all both On and Aoki are closely guarded by his armed soldiers. About six of them are actively pointing guns at them. Making up his cruel mind, he smiles. He spins the gun on the table. The barrel points to On Kawara. On grins. Looks round into the eyes of his captors. Game On!

On hesitates. The officer slaps On in the face. Hard. On stares back at him. On is now holding the gun to his own head. He roars loud and long and in the middle of the roar you hear the click of the empty chamber. He has survived a 50 percent chance of bringing about his own oblivion. In the blink of an eye, he has time to think: 'I AM STILL ALIVE'.

But On needs the gun again. Only it's now been put in Aoki's hand. "No more," says a beaten-looking Aoki, lowering the gun from his temple. But the officer isn't having that. He slaps his face. "More!" "Put an empty chamber in that gun, Aoki," pleads On. On needs the gun back with three bullets and one empty chamber. Christ, it's not much of a chance of living but it's the only chance they've got. If they are put back in the cages they will die for sure. On wants to live. He wants to get up for days and days into the future. He wants to walk and walk and walk. He wants to meet people, many more people, every living non-American on the planet. He doesn't want to have painted his last Date. He needs that gun back.

Aoki knows this. He loves and admires everything about On. He tries to think about his options. Meanwhile he's being slapped in the face by the Yank officer. Aoki puts the gun to his head again. Tears are sparkling in his suffering eyes. The situation is outrageous. Two chances to live, three to die. Slap. Aoki slams the gun down on the table. He can't do it."It's going to be all right, Aoki" says On, trying to instil calm. "Go ahead, shoot. Shoot, Aoki." He means that a zero chance of surviving is worse than a40% chance. On is slapped by the officer, who doesn't want him fucking up the bet. On gets to his feet but is shoved down hard into his seat. "Oh, no, no, no, Aoki!" says On, trying another way to get through to his friend. "You're gonna die, you motherfucker!" Aoki knows this too. The torment is indescribable, like nothing he's ever experienced. Like nothing any human being should ever have to experience. He tries to think about his options. Slap. He can't think, but he can listen to On. "Go ahead, Aoki."Aoki raises the gun again. "Go ahead" says On. You can see Aoki's trying to pull the trigger. But he can't make his wrist do the movement. 60% chance of blowing his own brains out after all. And then suddenly he makes the dreadful movement of finger on trigger. Click. Empty chamber. Joy. How about that? A few seconds more of life. "I AM STILL ALIVE," he realises, his eyes streaming."You made it, Aoki," says On, smiling, his eyes filling with tears too, nodding to his friend, over the moon at Aoki's show of strength of character. A show of strength that would last as long as the universe does, or for a million years, whichever was the shorter. On's pleased for them both, he even made that little joke to himself. He's feeling good. Because a small chance of survival beats certain death. Every time.

No time to celebrate. Back to On. The barrel of a rifle is prodding him in the back just below the neck. The officer slaps On across the face. This doesn't distract On from knowing that he has got what he wanted. The revolver with three bullets and only one empty chamber. Everybody in the room knows that, but only On realises that he is going to get the absolute maximum out of this situation. Now is the time to be a winner. Slap. He has to time things right. Slap. He has to get three bullets into the Americans before anyone can move. Slap. Then hope to get hold of a rifle. Slap. And hope that Aoki takes out one Yank. Slap. On and the Yank officer are staring at each other. Other Yanks are laughing at the prospect of what is to come. Surely Aoki is preparing himself to make a lunge. On breaks out into a toothy, challenging grin as he stares at the hated officer. On raises the gun to his head. He is laughing. He is a mad fucker and it looks to one and all the Americans that the Jap intends to laugh his way into oblivion. All the guards are laughing like apes as well. They are looking forward to seeing the mad Jap blow his yellow brains out. On is staring wildly, teeth grinning right into the faces of the yanks. Suddenly bang, bang, bang. On has shot the officer through the forehead and shot his immediate guard and another one. Aoki has thrown himself at his own guard and On has got hold of a machine gun. The sound of On Kawara's machine gun rips out. It rips loud and it rips long. Game over. Just like that. Game over. One more stream of bullets. Game running red and absolutely over.

Now where were we? Maybe The Deer Hunter really is Hirotsugu Aoki's favourite film. Because the bravery of the two men is incredible. The pressure they are able to function under is a tribute to the human spirit. Take a bow, Mike and Nick. Take a bow, Robert de Niro and Christopher Walken. Take that same bow, On Kawara and Hirotsugu Aoki.

Have I upped the stakes? I feel that I have. So let's get back to what, on one level, can be understood as On's exhilarating gamble with his one and only life. His Date painting, his 'I GOT UP' postcards, his 'I WENT' maps and his 'I MET' lists.

In February, the 'I MET" lists tell us that On bumped into Ceciia de Torres or her children fourteen times, but that would primarily have been in an admin capacity (moving up and down 140 Greene Street via the lift). He also met Toko and Kazuma Oshita a dozen times. Who were they? Kazuma Oshita was responsible for visual effects in Back to the Future, a film that Aoki was also involved with.





THREE

In March, On met Aoki another eleven times. Quite often the meetings were at the weekend , on the same days that On met Soroku, so perhaps the three of them met together and talked about The Deer Hunter.

Aoki: "On, there is a film you must see. So that we can talk about it.

Soroku: "It is horrible but mesmerising. You really must see it."

On: "I will watch it."

Apart from the de Torres family, the only other person met often was Ann Usai, who would come into the loft every weekday in order to work for On and Hiroko. This pattern was repeated in April. Nobu wasn't met at all, while Aoki (ten times) and Soroku (seven times) would often be met on the same days, mostly at the weekend. With the de Torres family helping with the lifts and Ann Usai turning up throughout the working week.

Dear reader, have you got your mind clear of those Russian roulette scenes yet? Maybe switching the scene to Munich will help with that. On's postcards to Lili probably went on until the beginning of February. Two of the huge Dates that On had painted in October and November of 1978 went on show at the Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery in Munich, as you can see from this page of images taken of the installation:

qgcxuev0025q2yfx0025ft2oudjw_thumb_dd16 Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, Rudiger Schottle.

On didn't attend the show. No doubt Kasper König would have reported after the opening that all was well. But On did visit Munich in May. He travelled on his own as he and Hiroko wouldn't have wanted to inflict a transatlantic flight on Akito so soon after the transpacific flights. In Europe, On spent two days with Nicholas Logsdail and his family in London, then travelled to Munich where he stayed for ten days with the Königs, before spending the last five days with Konrad Fischer and his family in Dusseldorf. All of which reprises 1977. It's the Munich part of the visit that I want to dwell on. But first I'll say a little about the follow-up visit to London.

On stayed close to where he stayed in 1977, a hotel in Paddington. Both days he visited the Logsdail family at the Lisson gallery. He met Stephen Willats again on day one, and Norman Rosenthal again, on day two. On day one he also met, for the first time, Peter Joseph, who was one of Nicholas Logsdail's favourite artists and best friends. And on day two he also met, for the first time, Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate. I've been told that the idea for an On Kawara show at the Tate was mooted from around this time, but that Serota never came to think that the ground had been sufficiently prepared for a large British audience to appreciate such a thing. So it never happened. In the end, Jonathan Watkins hosted a magnificent On Kawara exhibition at Birmingham's Ikon Gallery decades later, in 2002. But On Kawara missed out on the Tate. More fool Nick Serota, London would have loved it.

Nick Serota: "Have you seen The Deer Hunter?"

On Kawara: "Yes. In Manhattan."

Nick Serota: "The London cinema-going public just loved it!"

On Kawara: "My work also touches on the Vietnam war."

In Munich, On stayed at the new König family home, whose address of Tengstrasse 22 he'd stamped on so many cards to Lili König. On the second day of the 10-day visit, he went to Rüdiger Schöttle's address and met the gallerist and his partner, Brygida Ochaim. On the fifth day in Munich a significant new name appears on the 'I MET' list. That's Edda Köchl who would become Kasper's second wife. Ilka is also on that 'I MET' sheet. Same thing the next day: both wives' names. Same thing on the 9th day: Ilka and Edda. Ilka was seen on 8 of the 10 days, and so were her three kids, so that's definitely where On was staying throughout his stay in Munich.

yixdorryrrk3bidutqrdcw_thumb_f29b Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

A great 'I MET'. Bookended by the wives of Kasper König.

On May 9, On began the day in the König household, but, by the end of it, he was in the company of Rüdiger Schöttle, Björn Springfeldt and Edda Köchl. It may be that the business meeting involving König, Schuttle and Springfeldt took up the earlier part of the evening and that by the time On met Edda Köchl it was only Kasper that was still around.

xckd5hsltqa3etpho4xtlg_thumb_f29e Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Actually, looking at May 10's 'I MET', it seems that the post-midnight meeting was between Kasper, Björn, On and Edda.

Kasper: ""Have you seen The Deer Hunter?"

On: "Aoki, Soroku and I saw it in Manhattan."

Edda: "Don't suppose you liked it that much?"

On: "I am still alive."

On, and perhaps Kasper, would have returned to the König household to sleep. In the morning, the rest of the König household was met. Of course, it's possible that On met some combination of Björn, Edda and Kasper again in the evening, but the sensible fact that each name crops up just once in any given day that the person was met, stops that from being obvious.

Three days later, Ilka and Edda again. Together but kept separate, I'm supposing. What a double-life Kasper König was again living, after having uprooted himself from New York to get away from such a scenario. Not that I'm saying this is wrong. On and Hiroko wanted a stable relationship with each other. Kasper wanted something different. Adventure, variety, challenge, Russian roulette. Neither better nor worse, just different.

nargtwmbtymi6qntnhskhq_thumb_f2a1 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara must have enjoyed Edda Köchl's company in Munich, because once back in New York, after a couple of months, he began sending 'I GOT UP' cards to her. But I'll get to that after the following interlude or digression.





FOUR

Let's fast forward 28 years to On compiling 'I GOT UP' for Michelle Didier's publishing house. I wonder if his thoughts re the Königs were at all like Charles Ryder's on the last page of Brideshead Revisited. As Ryder thought back over his time with the Flyte family, referring to it as 'the fierce little human tragedy' in which he had played the part of an observer.

51dpzs0025mtuyb2chjpfnveg_thumb_d329 Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, Michelle Didier.

One thing I want to point out, is that when On had no choice but to use a postcard that had not been made available to Michelle Didier, for whatever reason, this is the invariable format of the reconstruction:

wskrumosqmejzizsjzor9a_thumb_f2db Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, Michelle Didier.

Several things to notice here. No picture side. No Address for the recipient. Where would On have got his getting-up time from? Where would he have got the identity of the person whom he'd sent the card to?

Well, the next photo - taken in Stockholm during On's January, 1973, residency - gives us some answers. The open notebook, the right-hand one of the two in the foreground, is a record of who On Kawara sent his cards to.

8jd4fnstspmk5fitcfccdw_thumb_d508 Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Below is a close -up of the log book, the existence of which is acknowledged by René Block in an essay in On Kawara: 1976 Berlin 1986.

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Sunday is shown separately from the other days of the week. The getting-up time is in column three, then a double-column for a name, followed by a tick column, followed by another double-column for the second name, and another tick column. The second column - the column after the date itself which is stamped more prominently - is for the word 'SENT', once On Kawara had posted a day's postcards.

So On would have needed this notebook in the absence of the postcard itself to know who he'd sent the cards to, and what time he'd got up at. Now for the fact that the address of the recipient is not printed onto the reconstructed card. I would suggest that it would have been, if the information had still been available. This suggests to me that On kept a separate address book and that he no longer had it in his possession by 2007/2008. Old address books have a habit of sticking around. But occasionally they disappear, as may have been the case here.

Of course, the picture side of the card isn't part of the reconstruction, as with the postcard being missing it would be very hard to access that information. However, we do know what the card looked like as the recipient of my example, Jean Pfaff, sold his collection in 2017. It may have proved impossible to contact him in 2007, otherwise I'm sure that he would have provided the cards for publication. I say that with complete confidence because I managed to get the full story of the postcards sent to Jean Pfaff from Jean himself. Jean is a French man, not a woman.


A postcard was sent to Jean Pfaff for 69 days in a row, starting with April 13, 1979, though you wouldn't know that from the final volume of the Michelle Didier edition which only illustrates 27 reconstructions of the message sides. At the time, Jean Pfaff was living in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Here is an image of those cards as advertised online by the auction firm that sold them on Jean's behalf:


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Though most of them represent New York, some of them suggest (confirmed by Tama Art University's online 'I WENT' series) that On took a trip to Europe in May of 1979. The 6th and 7th cards (in row one of the detail below) represent London, and the fifteen cards or so after that are all of Munich, Germany. The May 10 card reconstructed for the Michelle Didier volume would have been the third card from the left in the second row.

4iyxsod0025qgk4icpz9gaqfw_thumb_ddde Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.



Jean Pfaff wrote to me in answer to my email enquiry of December, 2021:

Good morning, Duncan,

I never met On Kawara in person.

In 1969 I visited the legendary exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bern. "When attitudes become form" by H. Szeemann. There I encountered the works of On Kawara, among others, which impressed me greatly.

In 1977 I received a scholarship through the Canada Council. I decided to go to college in Halifax, where I was until 1978. In the library at the college, I rediscovered in 1978 the catalogue from Bern I had at the time. In this catalogue, there were postcards from Halifax by On Kawara. I looked for them on the spot and sent them to him in New York on the relevant days - as a reference and memory, so to speak. My text was: "In memory to your postcard from the …….., Halifax, ………1973“

I must briefly interrupt Jean here, to clarify a couple of things. First, it is interesting that there was a group show at Bern as early as 1969 that involved On Kawara. It may partly account for why he got the solo show there later. Second, it must have been the catalogue to that solo show in 1974, One Year's Production, that Jean Pfaff came across in Halifax, because it is there where ten 1973 postcards are reproduced, sent by On Kawara while staying in Halifax.

So let’s see if I’ve got this right... Jean found the same postcards, or cards of the same architectural subjects, and sent them to On Kawara on the same days in 1978 (April 4 to April 13) as On had sent them off to recipients in 1973? I am not surprised that On responded to this initiative. It is what most artists want - an audience to engage with their work. Readers who might retain doubts about the approach that I've taken to On Kawara's work please note: On would have loved it!

Back to Jean's email:

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

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

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

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

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

What I really like about Jean Pfaff's story is how it begins in 1969, takes in 1973, becomes complicated in 1978, and is brought to a head in 1979. In other words the story just about covers the whole period that On was working on his self-observation series.

Jean Pfaff never met On Kawara, but they both knew Bern and Halifax. They were both into the art of the postcard. What's more, 'JEAN IS STILL ALIVE', a full 44 years after On Kawara sent him a substantial set of cards in 1979.

Okay, so let's go back to Munich in May to round off this digression. On Kawara was staying with the König family at Tengstrasse 22 when he was in the midst of making the postcards for Jean Pfaff. Here is a photo of the house.

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I can imagine Lili König catching sight of one or more cards on a table, and asking On Kawara who Jean Pfaff was. She would no doubt have had vivid memories of a few months before when she received all those brilliant cards that had kicked off so many interesting conversations with her parents in December of 1978 and January of 1979. Lili may have used it as an excuse to get out her card collection and to compare various aspects of them with the cards that On was sending to this Jean Pfaff in Dartmouth, Canada.

I imagine On would have told Lili Jean's story. How Jean had traced some cards sent out when On had been with Lili's father in Nova Scotia in 1973, when Lili had lived in Dartmouth as an infant. On would have told the nine-year-old that he'd been gratified to get Jean's tribute cards, and so had rewarded him with 70-odd daily cards of his own. On may have finished his description with the suggestion that one day a stranger might get in touch with her about the cards that On had sent Lili. Would she welcome such a thing? Young Lili may have nodded, but she was unlikely to have known her own mind concerning such an an abstract possibility.





FIVE

In June, the de Torres family helped On move up and down 140 Greene Street. He met Aoki seven times in the first half of the month and Soroku four times in the second half.

Let us set the scene at 140 Greene Street, eighteen months later. The magnificent loft property that On and Hiroko had been wise enough to purchase for a song in 1975, and where they'd lived since summer 1977. The following photos were taken on June 28, 1979, so they set us up nicely for the final act in this family drama.

t9phhzucsws63kl0025hz8h9g_thumb_dd3c Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The two photos have been taken from either side of where On Kawara sat. You can just about see that he kept his postcards in piles of similar cards. The one that is on top of a pile with an elastic band around it is a picture of the campsite at Roscoe. A week earlier, On had had sent the last one to Jean Pfaff. It was 17 days before he would begin sending cards to Edda Köchl. Currently cards were going to Aomi Okabe, in Paris, a woman professor, art critic and Director of Exhibitions at the House of Culture of Japan in Paris. While waiting for the canvas to dry he smoked, and turned to a hand-held air dryer (visible below) when he wanted to speed up the drying process. A date-stamp is visible to the left of the Date in the above photo.

z2pcqw0025vqfq8iyq002bufa0ha_thumb_de18 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

In the first half of July, I suspect both Aoki and Soroku were out of town. The postcards to Kasper's new flame, Edda Köchl, began to go to Munich on July 15, a day that On got up at 11.56 AM. What had he been doing? Well, he'd met Takeshi Kawashima on the previous day, and several other members of the New York-Japanese art community, so I suspect an all-night Mah Jonng game had been played. Perhaps he was trying to impress Edda with such a wild getting up time, but I wouldn't bet on it.

exotc3cor9ugniefsu002bqhg_thumb_f2c9.hurwlcwltr002bbigzkawc79q_thumb_f2ca Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Edda would get 56 cards. They only stopped when On travelled once again to Munich. I suspect those 56 cards were as much an act of loyalty towards his great friend, Kasper König. Just as the cards sent to Lili may have been intended to strengthen Kasper's position as a father, the cards to Edda may have been intended to strengthen his position as an art dealer and man of the world. I'll say more about this shortly.

I've reached the endgame in this whole exercise. On had sent out about 4000 x 2 postcards not missing a single day from May 1968 to September 1979. What a stunning achievement. Can we hope for a show-stopping conclusion? Maybe we can. The first 300-odd cards went to Kasper himself. (Actually, the preliminary postcards, before On had perfected his format, sent in April 1968, were to 'Mr and Mrs America', being Kasper and Ilka.) And the last sixty-four cards - who were they to? Well, the penultimate 56 cards were to the woman who would be Kasper's second wife. And the ultimate eight cards were sent to Anna Astner, the woman who would seem to have come after Ilka and before Edda in Kasper's life, if I can put it that way.

I think I need to remind myself (and you too, dear reader) who Anna was. She first appeared on an ''I MET' list in October 1975. Her name comes immediately after Kasper König's. Either Kasper had brought her along to a meeting with other art world bigwigs - Angela Westwater, Konrad Fischer and Gian Enzo Sperone - or he introduced On to Anna after that meeting.

I have to keep saying that I don't know for sure that the relationship between Kasper and Anna was either sexual or romantically significant. In 1976, before going to Berlin, On and Hiroko were living in Kasper's flat at 423 Broadway. On would occasionally meet Anna in that flat, sometimes with Hiroko, at other times with Ilka, or Ilka and the kids. On February 25, On met Hiroko then Kasper, then Anna then Ilka. So the relationship may still have been one of colleagues at this juncture. Anna may have simply been Kasper's personal assistant.

When On and Hiroko left Berlin for good, they were again living at 423 Broadway. In March and April of 1977 there are several lists where the first person On met was Hiroko, followed by Kasper followed by Anna, then other people. I can't help envisaging On and Hiroko in one bed at 423 Broadway, and Kasper and Anna in another, though, I say yet again, that may not be correct. However, we know that Kasper and Ilka were living at different addresses at this time, that they'd separated, and in the light of what happened in 1979 with Edda, the possibility of Kasper and Anna sleeping together must surely be there.

But by June and July, Ilka was pregnant with Leo, and Ilka and Anna were found in close conjunction on several 'I MET' lists. I tentatively concluded that it had been decided between Ilka and Kasper that the new child would mean a new start in a new city. So in January, with Anna visiting On and Hiroko while the whole König family were lodging at 140 Greene Street, the Königs caught a plane to Munich.

On September 9, On travelled to JFK International Airport. But before leaving his studio he said goodbye to his wife and child, and to three other people, one of whom being Anna Astner. There would have been no Date Painting on the table on September 9, but in the morning On would have made his postcard for the day, and so Anna may even have seen it:

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Let's say Anna did see the postcard, noted that the card was going to Munich where Kasper now lived, and asked On who Edda Köchl was. On would not have known what to say, and Anna would have immediately known the woman's identity: herself, on the other side of the Atlantic. Such an encounter, had it taken place, might have moved On to say that when he was in Munich he would love to send Anna postcards, if she would like that. Would she like that? Anna, I'm sure, would have said that she would indeed like that. She may have said more: "Give my love to Kasper."

ex6fttw002bslgdzwfffbwzdw_thumb_f2cd.zsrbrfw2r06i75dcgf98ka_thumb_f2ce Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

During this trip, On wasn't staying at the König family home with Ilka and the children, but at Rüdiger Schöttle's property. Perhaps this had been suggested by Kasper so as to minimise the chances of Ilka and Edda coming into contact with each other while Kasper came and went with On. Nevertheless, On visited the address he'd sent all those postcards to Lili to, being Tengstrasse 22. Of course, he did! - he was a fond friend of the whole family. On loved the Königs and the Königs loved On. On September 10, On met Kasper, Lili, Leo, Coco and Ilka, in that order. Hugs and smiles. Perhaps Lili showed On her collection of 'I GOT UP' cards. And on the 11th, he met Kasper, Coco, Leo, Lili and Ilka, in that order. Perhaps Coco was allowed to show On Lili's collection of 'I GOT UP' cards this second time around. Smiles, winks and laughter.

Anna may have noticed that the address that On was staying at was not the same as the address that the postcard to Edda Köchl had been sent to. As the cards continued to come, she may have wondered if On had met Edda yet.

5h05djfotto2opfgffjwpa_thumb_f2cf.gnl2rhe6sqgefbqntdvlaw_thumb_f2d7 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On Kawara met Edda Köchl on September 13. Ilka is on the 'I MET' list as well. But the names are separated by sufficient distance so that it may be safe to assume that they did not meet each other. On met Ilka, in the company of Kasper, early in the day. He met Edda, with Kasper by her side, later in the day. There is a certain amount of presumption in this paragraph, so judge for yourself, dear reader:

a4yvvirfrsycow002blwgleia_thumb_f2a2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Anna, back in New York, wouldn't have been aware of the meeting. On would have been well aware of it. He may have felt uncomfortable when typing out the above 'I MET' list. He may have felt even more uncomfortable when stamping out the 'I GOT UP' card to Anna. He didn't necessarily want to foreground Kasper's partners in this way, though there was something almost Shakespearean about it:

To be or not to be with Ilka?
To be, or not to be with Anna?
To be, or not to be with Edda?
Those are the questions.


On didn't really want to draw attention to Kasper's personal life in this way. He may have blamed himself for not thinking through the implications of sending cards to Anna. Those exquisite cards to Anna that look all the better when reproduced at a high-enough quality so that the details, particularly on the message side, can be relished:

4b2o6gsdqroofjwaohug4g_thumb_dcf0 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Do you see, dear reader? How wonderful is that? Anna's name, her address, her city; printed perfectly, with meticulous care and much respect. I say again: what an exquisite object. Does it say: 'I AM STILL ALIVE' or: 'YOU ARE STILL ALIVE'? Perhaps it says: 'WE ARE STILL ALIVE'.

And it reminds me that back in 1966 when On had a studio at 405 East 13th Street, where Yayoi Kusama also had a studio. Yayoi tells the story: 'One day I was struck by fear while I was standing in the building. I cried out: "I'm scared. Somebody, please come." There came Mr Kawara: "Don’t worry. No need to be scared, I am with you.’

After the König family left for Munich in January of 1978, Anna Astner would visit On Kawara about once per month, either at 140 Greene Street or elsewhere in Manhattan, but not at her own flat. At least I can see no evidence that On Kawara met Anna Astner at 30 St. Marks Place.

In November of 1978, On met Anna with Kasper five times in a month. Had they resumed their relationship? Or was Anna working for Kasper again? If either of these were the case, it wasn't to last. On Kawara met Anna four times in 1979 (February 24, June 30, August 7, September 9), never with Kasper or any of the König family. They had moved to Munich, after all. And perhaps, Kasper, having met and fallen in love with Edda, was finding it hard to leave his adopted city.

Back to the multi-layered postcard of September 13, 1979. Of course it's possible that this card was left lying visible in On's room at Rudiger Schöttle's place, and that Edda wandered into the room at some stage, hand in hand with Kasper. She may have glimpsed the postcard and immediately recognised - with a thrill - that it was an 'I GOT UP' card. After realising - with a pang - that it wasn't addressed to herself, as others had been as recently as four days previously, she might have said openly to On: "Who is Anna Astner?" Poor On would not have known what to say. And Edda would have immediately known the woman's identity: herself, once removed.

In the morning of September 14, On left Munich bound for Stockholm. Edda's name is first on the 'I MET' list, though I think this refers to a meeting with herself, Kasper and Gerhard Merz that took place on the 13th but went on after midnight. After waking up on the 14th, it makes sense that On said goodbye only to his hosts, Rüdiger and Brygida. It was on the 14th that he posted the cards to Anna made up on both the 13th and the 14th.

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He wouldn't have said goodbye to Edda and not to Ilka and the children. Those important good-byes had been said already.

Landing in Stockholm. Perhaps it was at this point that On decided he should end the three series of self-observation. Would that be a sensible thing to do? After all it was while in Stockholm back in January 1973 that he'd stopped giving subtitles to his Date Paintings, other than the day of the week on which they were painted. He would have been aware that his responsibilities as a father were making it more difficult to keep up with the production of 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET'. Hiroko was due to have a second child at the beginning of December. A situation he would surely have been excited and happy about.

70025hutgotqluqurc6yj5mww_thumb_f2d8 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

In the meantime, as the above map shows, On arrived in the centre of Stockholm from the airport. He installed himself in his room where he did not stamp a postcard as he'd already done that before leaving Munich. However, he was now going to be on a small boat for a couple of days, so he packed a bag and took along his briefcase with postcards and card stamping equipment. He either got a taxi or walked to the small island where Moderna Museet was and is. It was probably there he hooked up with Björn Springfeldt and Björn's partner, Milla Tragardh, whom he already knew well. They then walked to an even smaller island and got into a boat called Elin and sailed off. On was being treated to an exclusive sail through the Stockholm archipelago.

September the 15th was a sailing day. On would have been paying close attention to where the boat was sailing, so as to make a good job of his 'I WENT'. As we'll see, he had to do two maps to cover their movement. Here is the first:

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On may have been talking continuously with whoever was sailing the boat. Let's say Björn, to ensure his line of red ink was properly negotiating its way through the many islands.

Björn: "Does it matter?"

On: "It matters to me."

Actually, Björn would have known this. They'd first met the day that On Kawara had arrived in Stockholm in December 1972, nearly seven years earlier.

kszpvlivqacv5diwcvrsyw_thumb_f2d9 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Once the boat had moored for the evening, On would have turned to his postcards that he may have bought hurriedly while walking through the city to his lodgings. See below. In an ideal world, On might have picked a panda-less card. But the swans were fine. Kasper and Ilka. Or Kasper and Edda. Or, most poignant of all, Kasper and Anna.

6xy809hqsdotvqfm002bbzwfq_thumb_dcf1 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

On had made postcards on a boat before. But that had been on board the QE2 going across the Atlantic, and he'd had a fair-sized cabin to himself on those occasions. Here he would have had to work in the close confines of a small boat. But, as we can see, he made a near-perfect job of the card. Although the boat was now moored at Halsingholmen, when he'd got up that morning they'd been moored off Betsön, surrounded by several islands. So it was that place-name that On would have carefully created with his rubber letters.

I'm sure (am I?) Anna appreciated the sublime creation when it reached her in New York. In the meantime, On would have to hold onto it until the Elin had taken him back to Stockholm.

On, Björn and Milla would have happily spent the evening in each other's company. They'd met On many times during his six-week Stockholm residency, and by the end of it Hiroko had been there as well. Björn and Milla had met On and Hiroko again in New York in February 1975, which would have helped consolidate their relationship. And Bjorn had been in On's company in Munich in both May and September of 1979, and in New York, in May of 1979. Björn had stayed at 140 Greene Street for five days. In other words, through this boat trip he was returning hospitality received.

The next day was the second and final day of sailing. Again, On would have been focussing closely on the route navigated through the myriad of islands.

xcfvybrksae6dp9jeewwma_thumb_dcf3 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

It looks as if they twice landed on rocky, scrubby (I've been there) islands. Perhaps they managed to have a conversation at some point. Björn Springfeldt had succeeded Pontus Hulten as director of Moderna Museet. The connection with Stockholm had begun when Pontus had invited On Kawara to be artist in residence in December 1972. Pontus Hulten being a friend of Kasper König. Not that On was invited to Stockholm through nepotism. A sequence of 100-odd 'I GOT UP' postcards from New York to Stockholm may have been the key to securing the invite. Anyway, it was during the residency that On met Björn Springfeldt, but I've already said that.

Let's just underline how important Kasper König was to the dizzy height that On Kawara had reached in his art career. Kasper König probably approached Johannes Gachnang leading to On Kawara: One Year's Production, catalogue and show at Kunthaus Bern, October 1974. Kasper König probably approached Pontus Hulten leading to Date Paintings for 90 days, at the Pompidou Centre, March 1977. Kasper König probably approached Björn Springfeldt leading to On Kawara: continuity/discontinuity 1963- 1979. The show would be on at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, October 11 - November 23, 1980. Then it would transfer to Essen in Germany, Jan. 30 - March 15, 1981. Then Eindhoven in the Netherlands and Osaka in Japan, later in 1981.

Björn Springfeldt edited the continuity/discontinuity catalogue, whose foreword contains the statement: 'One person who realised early on the broader significance of On Kawara's art was Kasper Koenig, whose advice and assistance have been instrumental in bringing about this first demonstration of the whole range of the artist's activity since his voluntary exile in 1963.'

So with the Stockholm show about a year away, but in the process of being planned, all sorts of conversations about On Kawara's work would have been taking place. Not just aboard the Elin, but in May of that year when Björn Springfeldt had been of the party in Munich. Indeed, his name appears on two of the 'I MET' lists where Kasper, Ilka and Edda are listed.

So On may have talked about his predicament, his wish to bring to an end 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET'. Björn would have thought about the implications for the show he was organising. And would have seen that it wouldn't make any difference whether the self-observation series were ongoing or not. In either case, the situation was fascinating and he would have loads of examples to exhibit.

And if On expressed anxiety about Kasper König's name being found on the same 'I MET' sheet as Edda Köchl and Ilka Katharina Schellenberg? If the sheet was included in the show, and if Edda or Ilka saw it, then it would mean next to nothing to them. The sheets were from On's perspective. And if On met Kasper, Ilka and Edda on the same day, what of it? It would have been potentially incriminating if On had used some kind of elaborating device that detailed each meeting, explicitly showing that Kasper had met Ilka in the morning and had met Edda in the evening. But no-one could draw any such conclusion as things stood.

Perhaps On had already worked that out for himself. In any case, he would have gone to bed that night conscious of the goodwill that filled the boat. He may also have been conscious of the thousands of rocky islands that he'd been passing amongst. Stockholm really had made an impression on On Kawara. The purity of the blackness of the night sky had meant that he'd been able to see thousands of stars in the winter back in 1972/73. The sight that had inspired the 30-page near-solid black section in the book On Kawara: One Year's Production. How Kasper König had persuaded Johannes Gachnang to devote so much of the catalogue to this material was something that neither On nor Björn would ever understand. Laughter in the boat as the lights went out.

In the morning, they would get going early.

hnynrzagtnac9zspzoiqra_thumb_dcf2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Nothing is more certain than that Björn and Milla (the only people On met over the two-day excursion) would have been curious to see the postcards that On was making while on the Elin. And on being presented with them, nothing is more likely than they would have asked who Anna Astner was. On may have told them. And it might have given them pause for thought.

Milla or Björn: "Given what you said you were worried about last night, why make things so much more dangerous by sending postcards to another of Kasper's female friends?"

On: "Have you see The Deer Hunter?"

Milla or Björn: "Strange that you should mention that excessively violent film in this context."

On: "The ultimate risk and reward scenario. But you are right. I am going to sleep, forget it."

At which point I am envisaging On withdraw from the conversation. This would have given him an opportunity to focus exclusively on the drawing of the path of the boat amongst the islands of the archipelago. They had reached their most easterly point and were now turning back towards Stockholm.

xcfvybrksae6dp9jeewwma_thumb_dcf3-2 Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Again, On uses two 'I MET' maps for September 16. On the second one we can see On disembarking from the boat at the place he'd got on it a couple of days before. Then he walked or was driven directly back to his room on Gamla Stam. It wouldn't have taken him long. It took me about half an hour earlier this summer.

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Before leaving his room for the day, On made his postcards. Remember he had been sending out two cards every day for over ten years. This was to be the last time, whether he knew it or not. Did he appear to make a special effort? This last one is perfect in every way. Even the post office has done its bit. Let's suggest that the nearest sailing boat is the Elin, off on another voyage, this time without On Kawara.

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Where did On go on this his last day of 'I WENT'? In no particular order, he went to the end of the island he was staying on to take in the view. He went to Moderna Museet to talk once more with Björn and Milla about the upcoming show…

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And then he took a trip off the left edge of the map, possibly to see the other three people named on the day's 'I MET' list. The last one ever made. The end of an era. The end of a most ambitious and fully worked-through art work. Here it is:

o4bujqycqcy9wweibmo79w_thumb_f2da Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

Something of an anti-climax in terms of interconnectivity, in comparison to the 'I GOT UP'? Yes, of the three documents date-stamped '17 SEP. 1979', it's the postcard that I'll be returning to.

But let's stick with the 'I MET' for the moment. Anna, Nina and Margarita were not people On met when he'd been in Stockholm seven years earlier. They may have been friends of Björn and Milla who they wanted to introduce to On. The arrow on the map goes both ways, so On was back in his hotel room by midnight.

And the next day? The next day On's briefcase was stolen along with his stamping equipment when he was standing in a queue inside a bank. Would you Adam and Eve it? How unlucky for On Kawara!

But remember that the log book must have been available in 2008 in order for On and Michele Didier to come up with reconstructions of cards, such as those to Jean Pffaff. Surely this log book would have been in the suitcase when a thief lifted it from the polished floor of a bank on September 18, 1979? Well, the story goes that after - I don't know how long - the briefcase and its contents were returned to On Kawara. How very convenient! Do I believe the stolen briefcase story? Let's try and keep an open mind, though I suspect that On wanted it to appear that the project had come to an end on a random day and not by his volition. Thus avoiding too close a scrutiny of 1979's 'I GOT UP', 'I WENT' and 'I MET'.

Anyway, sticking with the robbery for a moment. If it had been an average thief that had taken On's briefcase, then, on finding that it contained only rubber-stamps and blank postcards, and the like, most thieves would have been very disappointed, and disposed of the case without any further ado.

However, if the thief had been curious about the paraphernalia, and had managed to do a little pre-Google research, he might have found out about On Kawara, conceptual artist. But he would really have had to like the work to go to all the altruistic effort and expense of returning the case to On Kawara in New York. But such a scenario is possible.

Oh, and one last thing. That log book with its precious information as to who the 'second' postcard went to each day. That will be safely stored away at 140 Greene Street. I don't think One Million Years Foundation will be making it available to the public for a long time. There is no need to divulge all On Kawara's secrets, which will help preserve the work's mystery. Sure, I would like to know what date On sent a single postcard to Nobu Fukui. Sure, I would like to know the 'second' person who was receiving postcards for those last few days when the 'first' one was going to Anna Astner. But I'm happy to wait for a million years.

'ANNA ASTNER'. There is a name that On Kawara didn't want to be forgotten, while at the same time bubble-wrapping it in layers of respect.

I have the urge to type 'ANNA KÖNIG'. Not for any special reason. Just to add to the aesthetic interconnectivity: Edda, Lili, Coco, Anna = ELCA. As if the whole thing is and was a playful fiction. As if the whole thing is/was a midsummer night's dream.

Endgame.