1993





OVERVIEW


- January to December: 5, 3, 4, 3, 5, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 2. A total of 41 + 1 Date Paintings.
- Akito, age 15 in April. Sahe, 14 in December.
- Significant periods of Date Painting: none. But a Date Painting was made for the first time in Bordeaux (27 MAI, 1993) and Oiron (30 MAI, 1993.


ESSAY

A quiet year for On Kawara, you might think, on the basis of the above. But not so. 1993 would prove to be his most visible year of all, in many ways. I'm not sure the following scenario has been described in any detail before. I will attempt to do it justice.

The year began with the 89 Cities show on display in Boston, where On Kawara had very recently Date Painted. But it also began - surely as a curatorial response to the '89 Cities' exhibition - with the following show: 'On Kawara: One Thousand Days, One Million Years' at Dia Center for the Arts, New York. Month-by-month a total of 1000 Date Paintings, all made in New York, were to be shown between January 1 and December 31, 1993. 'Million Years (Past)' was also in the show throughout the year, as was a sound version of Million Years (Future), the years read aloud alternately by a man and a woman.

1000 paintings from the Today series? Was this claim feasible? Well, On Kawara had painted Dates as follows:

1966: 241
1967: 201
1968: 136
1969: 104
1970: 139
1971: 126
1972: 63
1973: 85
1974: 71
1975: 103
1976: 40
1977: 37
1978: 38
1979: 44
Total: 1428

Plus, an average of, say, 50 per year from 1980 to 1992. 12 x 50 = 600. Giving a grand total of approximately 2000 Date Paintings by the end of 1992. Quite a lot of these were painted away from New York, but it's still easy to see how a display of 1000 paintings made in New York would have been possible, in particular because On Kawara had been filing away his completed paintings in a New York storage facility.

On Kawara made sure to include a photo of each month's installation in the 1996 volume Whole and Parts, which he edited. Though, as you're about to see, the image for January doesn't give much away. But what it does suggest (and photos of later installations confirm) is that the monthly displays began at the beginning of 1966, and progressed chronologically.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_e11c One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993

The Date Paintings were given so much prominence around the world in 1993, or at least in Europe and America, that I must take this slowly and systematically, month by month. Before the end of January, three (or four) Dates were displayed as part of a group show, curated by René Denizot, whose title translates as: 'The world in pieces, the work fractured'. This exhibition was held in the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris, and I can't find any pictures of it except the two very similar ones reproduced in Whole and Parts.

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I've taken a look at the Dates through a magnifying glass, and I think they were three (or four) of the four consecutive days painted in October, 1992, from the 20th to the 23rd, which I highlighted as a significant period of Date Painting in the paragraph opening the 1992 essay. In other words, this was On Kawara co-operating with a trusted colleague.

René Denizot was a trusted colleague of Yvon Lambert as well. At the back of the catalogue produced for the Kawara show in Frankfurt in 1991, 'On Kawara', which contains the hardcore Denizot text that I quoted from several times in the 1991 essay, the writer's other publications are listed, and five of his texts were published by Yvon Lambert. Perhaps it's the most that you can hope for as a respected intellectual with an academic writing style, that some rich individual or organisation will take a shine to your work and give it a platform.

On Kawara was in Paris for the show. I think we can safely say this because the following painting was made in Paris while the show was open to the public.

htwjwwcyswc2rcqm0025exp5a_thumb_df2b Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

By the time this small group show closed in Paris on the 23rd of February, the solo 89 Cities show was about to open (on 25th Feb) in San Francisco, at the Museum of Modern Art. Meanwhile, in New York, the Dia Centre had refreshed its selection of Date Paintings, which On Kawara represents in Whole and Parts with this image:

zu2b2u3ys1yvu21qldsyxq_thumb_e11d One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

It seems that it took two displays at Dia Center - January's and February's - to show the 1966 Dates. In 1966 itself, On had succeeded in displaying the whole year's Date Paintings concurrently in his loft only by having two or more rows of Dates going around the walls. What one gains in viewer-friendliness one loses in overall impact. I suspect that On Kawara discreetly attended each monthly display of his Date Paintings in 1993. After all, it was only a short Metro ride from 140 Greene Street to 548 West 22nd Street. The three red circles (ignore the pink one) in lower Manhattan on the map below, show the relative positions of 140 Greene Street (most southerly circle) to where the first Date Paintings were made in 1966 (405 East 13th Street: easterly red circle) and where they were displayed in 1993 (548 West 22nd Street: westerly and northerly red circle).

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Any person jetting around the world trying to keep abreast of On Kawara's Date Paintings would have done well to stay in New York until the March installation was installed at the Dia Center. It seems that On was back in New York in time to paint MAR.6, 1993 and to see the third Dia installation. Here is another photo from Whole and Parts:

lb0inmf2rm6ntkrsxwitlw_thumb_e11b One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

The image illustrates the set up at Dia Center for the whole year, in that there was a large gallery with the changing display of Date Paintings. And there was a smaller adjoining room with table and chairs and the Million Years (Past) volumes. This partially echoes 1966, when On Kawara sat in his inner sanctum painting 'Today'. He sat there painting (and thinking about the past million years?!) while the majority of the year's Dates hung on the walls of the larger part of his studio.

At the end of March, On took a quick trip to Tokyo where he painted 29 MAR 1993. He was back in New York by April 9 and here is 'I READ' from that day, which commemorates his Japanese trip. Cherry trees in full bloom:

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All of the Date Paintings made from April 1968 until April 1969 were achieved in Mexico City or South American cities. Those would not have been displayed as part of the Dia show in New York. However, April's instal would have been particularly exciting for On Kawara (is this what brought him back from Japan so quickly?) as it included the moon landing triptych from July, 1969. Would On have seen the paintings side by side before? That depends how big his 1969 studio was, his huge 1966 studio having been by then disposed of. But I don't think the paintings would have been exhibited together before. Being particularly large, they were difficult to handle, and so this may have been their first public showing, though I need to check that out.

k6ouccdzseofu9l9r0cwya_thumb_e11e One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

The following photo of the May instal gives the best impression of the size of the Dia Art Center and how the paintings were displayed in certain months. Some hung on the wall while others lay in vitrines beside their boxes.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_e120 One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

In the foreground you see MAY11,1971, MAY12,1971, MAY13,1971, MAY15,1971 MAY16,1971 and MAY 17,1971. On also made two dates in New York on May 14, 1971 so either they were hung on the walls or were not included in the show, perhaps because the paintings had been sold and were hung elsewhere. After all, the promise was to show 1000 Date Paintings in the course of the year, not every single Date that On Kawara had painted in New York.

On Kawara stayed in Manhattan until he'd seen the June hang, which wasn't to be changed until the gallery reopened again in October, after its summer closure.

g3fzs3uxqu2vn9ej9clnxa_thumb_e121 One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

Again, there is an omission from this sequence. APR. 2,1972 was painted in New York. Also, by separating these paintings from their boxes, the viewer may not have been given the sub-titles. The sub-title for MAR.30,1972 is: "A party of 28 Chinese table-tennis players in Ottawa, Canada." The sub-title for APR.1,1972 is: "Thousands of North Vietnamese and Vietcong troops have driven past South Vietnam's northern line of defences below the demilitarised zone and are pushing South Vietnamese forces in disarray toward their rear bases." Thus the artist goes from the playful to the serious. From the timeless to the historical. From ping-pong to civil war. As was his remorseless habit.

Let us turn our attention back to Europe, where a huge and important group show opened in the German city of Wien on May 26, running until 25 July, 1993. 'Broken Mirror', curated by Kasper König and Hans Ulrich Obrist. Participating artists, as well as On Kawara, included Ed Ruscha, Sigmar Polke and Marlene Dumas, but there were dozens. Perhaps this show had been some time in the planning as On Kawara had visited Wien and made a Date Painting there in December 1991.

On Kawara's work can be seen in this picture, below, as can Ed Ruscha's. However, it is a magnifying glass job to identify which days were there. The first Date Painting would seem to have been JAN.6,1993… The magnifying glass fails me at that point, but it does suggest that the first three days were painted in January, 1993 and that the next two were made in February. The 100-Year-Calendar suggests that JAN 13,1993 might well be the next painting, followed by two of the three he painted in February.

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Again, this is an example of On Kawara co-operating with a trusted colleague, on this occasion Kasper König. On would have to be interested in a group show to contribute to it. And the easiest way to interest him was for it to be suggested by the people who best knew his work and his intentions.

Actually, I don't know if On Kawara saw this group show or even went to Germany this time around. I do know that he was based in France, as he made Dates in Bordeaux, Oiron and Paris. Below is one of two Dates made in Bordeaux. Please ignore the black mark on the first 9, which resulted from me trying to remove a glitch in the scan.

j5kjznagswadthv2hqn002bdq_thumb_df2d ivvyqmyttsmhd1b8j4brhq_thumb_df2c Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The newspaper extract contains a handy map, showing where On was in France. He was there to suss out yet another very ambitious show that was scheduled to open on December 10 of 1993, which I'll get to soon enough. But the idea was that the gallery would celebrate having been open for twenty years with a show of On Kawara's Date Paintings. And I imagine that it was On Kawara's suggestion that a Date Painting from each month from May 1972 to November 1993 would fit the bill. That's 247 more Date Paintings to be added to the 1000 in New York, to be added to the 89 on display in San Francisco (in the spring), in this all-Kawara-ing year of 1993.

It would not surprise me to learn that 1993 was the year that On and Hiroko bought a flat in Paris (They may have bought it in 1992), because many of the paintings that year were made in France. And as well as the Paris show in January and the Bordeaux show, a dozen Date Paintings, one from each month of 1993 were permanently installed at Chateau d'Oiron by the end of the year. The painting that On made on May 30, in Oiron, would be part of that installation. On was one of many famous artists to be included in the commission, and the show opened in June. Though I guess On's paintings weren't installed until they were all made by the end of the year. However, it's possible that a preliminary and provisional hang of the first six Dates could have been attempted. But did On Kawara do preliminary and provisional?

I'll come back to On Kawara's unique installation at the end of this essay. For now, here is a photo of the Chateau's exterior.

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And below is a map of France showing the places that On Kawara had connections with. The above chateau is the red circle located in the vicinity of Nantes. Nantes is on the same latitude as Villeurbanne where the 'Whole and Parts' exhibition would be installed in November, 1996. South of which, and near Lyon, is Dijon, home of le Presses du Reel and Le Consortium, the gallery where On Kawara showed alongside Giacometti in 1990. Bordeaux will be mentioned again shortly.

iv8gryenqsykp9z4v3gpsq_thumb_e137

The high speed trains radiating from Paris meant that all these regional centres were easily accessible from the capital, which On Kawara chose as his European base. It's odd that On didn't choose somewhere in Germany. He still had friends and associates there, but I suppose many of his new contacts and opportunities were in France. Perhaps he and Hiroko simply preferred the atmosphere of Paris at that time to any German city.

On was back in New York by the middle of June, even though there was no new Dia installation to enjoy until October. He made a few Dates and here are some samples of 'I READ' to prove it. First, a page of African news…

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And below is a page including a photo and article about Nelson Mandela, taking us to July 1.


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And below another black hero. This one having exhausted herself helping lay sandbags to prevent floods in Iowa.

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On Kawara spent August in Japan, the three Date Paintings made that month all being in the Esperanto style with the plene accent topping the U. The additions to the 'I READ' file are in Japanese. One of those should be enough for illustrative purposes:

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Then back to New York in September. The Dia Foundation was still closed for the summer break. On took the opportunity of making three Manhattan Dates in September. Here are 'I READ' pages from two of them. Palestine being one miserable war zone…

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And Bosnia being another.

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After that, at the end of September, On was flying over the Atlantic again (I must try and summarise all these 1993 flights before the end of this essay), because paintings 28. SEPT., 2 OCT. and 5 OCT. were painted in Frankfurt, Strasbourg and Paris respectively. Frankfurt to see the Königs? Strasbourg (north east France near the German border) for a reason unknown. Paris, because, as already mentioned, he had bought a flat there.

Anyway, On was back in New York by the middle of October and in order to catch up with the latest display at the Dia, which was open again after its summer closure:

tod6zwxxr0025oe5s1xkwxaxq_thumb_e123 One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

OCT. 18,1977, OCT. 22,1977, OCT. 30,1977, NOV. 5,1977. That corner of the display would have taken On back to the autumn of 1977, when Hiroko told him that she was pregnant. NOV. 5,1977 was the start of a phase of red paintings. He also made Date Paintings in New York on October 19,1977, and October 26, 1977, but perhaps these had been sold.

Onto November's installation. Because his productivity was less by the late 1970s, several years output could be shown at once in the Dia Center.

6c002bn2uxxtugaq87eh5a002bgq_thumb_e122 One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

The 100-Year-Calendar tells me that no Dates are missing from the above sequence.

On was in New York long enough to make six Dates. Here is the 'I READ' associated with one of them:

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The photo in Whole and Parts representing the December installation at Dia, below, shows a jump of ten years. So the 1981 Dates in the November shot must have been from near the beginning of the display, just as the 1991 Dates in the December shot must have been from close to the end of it.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_e124 One Million Years/One Thousand Days, Dia Center for the Arts, New York, 1993.

'MAY 7', 'MAY 19', 'MAY 20' and 'MAY 22, 1991', are missing from the above sequence. As are JUN. 1, JUN. 4 and a second JUN. 6, 1991. Which suggests that a smaller proportion of Dates from these more recent years were on show.

But in this year of incessant travel, On Kawara could not stay put. Back to Europe in December. To stay at the new Paris flat? Then to take the fast train to Bordeaux in order to see this:

800251zcldbqlwurc0025qxanska_thumb_e12c Installation, capc Musée d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, 1993

Although this is spectacular, I have my reservations about it. I guess that was On Kawara's reaction as well, as this kind of display has not been attempted subsequent to 1993. Usually, the preferred way of installing the Date Paintings was in chronological order at eye level. The above curation, seen uniquely at Bordeaux, was a different way of getting the Dates across. Even in the knowledge that there were 247 Date paintings on the gallery wall, one representing each month from May 1972 to November 1993, one still doesn't really get it. There is nothing for the eye - or mind's eye - to settle on. In reality, one month follows another month in a regular way. But that's not what you see on that wall.

On was commissioned to design a book for this show. And so he took the opportunity to design a cardboard box/book. Each of the 247 Dates was a page in itself. As you turned the pages, each painting disappeared into its box, as it were. And all 247 of the boxed paintings were collected within a real cardboard box. Quite a neat concept. This is not to imply I have a copy of 247 mois/ 247 jours in my possession. Only 247 were made, and needless to say they are scarce and of great value.

qvxczx8squkruwjt1qnvmq_thumb_e11a Reproduced thanks to the understanding of the One Million Years Foundation.

The cardboard box is not as archival as On Kawara's own boxes. Indeed, the cardboard looks both rough and flimsy, and the staples evoke a stationary cupboard rather than an art gallery.

On then made a Date Painting in Cologne, in the process making a page for his 'I READ'. The main headline concerns, yet again, the Bosnian war.

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The hypothetical show I mentioned covering the war in the Balkans would show Date Paintings from 1992 and 1993, alongside those 'I READ' pages that reported on the war. The show would be added to from year to year until the madness stopped.

Then, back in 1993, I'm not sure what happened. I do know that On spent the holiday season in Tokyo, but don't know if he went to Japan straight from Europe, or from New York. It was on December 17, that he Dated in Cologne, and December 31 in Tokyo, so I suspect he went straight to Tokyo from Germany or Paris. What was the point in having a flat in Paris if it wasn't going to be used as a bolt-hole and a travel hub?

Time to focus on the year-long Oiron commission. Which so far I haven't made anything like as visible as the Dia Art Foundation show. It consisted only of twelve paintings rather than a thousand, admittedly. But On had had to set aside a day in each month of 1993 to paint a Date of a certain consistent size (A) and an unusual (for On) royal blue colour.

fogwvz86qa2voze8e69yfq_thumb_df6b Twelve Months, 1993, Château d’Oiron, Plaine-et-Vallées, France

The twelve Dates, were displayed at eye level and in chronological order over three walls of a classically proportioned, panelled room. Alas, there are very few images online to help build up the picture of this installation. But I gradually got there.

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Jackie today: So near, yet so what?

Twelve Dates. One per month. Months are moons, of course. The moon takes 29 days to rotate around the earth. As one's eye moves around the room, a line from A Midsummer Night's Dream comes to mind, delivered by Theseus to Hippolyta. "But, O, methinks, how slow this old moon wanes." It works better in this context if you use 'year' instead of 'moon'. That's because On Kawara, like Puck, had regularly been putting a girdle around the earth in forty minutes.

The name Hippolyta reminds me of something: Hiroko, On's enthusiastic fellow-traveller, may have been part of this trip. At 14 and 15, the children would have been able to look after themselves for a day or two. Especially with Aoki and Teresa's help. Or perhaps the children made the journey across the Atlantic as well.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_e12d Twelve Months, 1993, Château d’Oiron, Plaine-et-Vallées, France

The mirror complicates things greatly. Indeed there are two or three mirrors in the room.

But let me cut to the chase. The twelve monthly moon dates of Chateau d'Oiron are as follows:

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Let us take the opportunity of walking clockwise around the room, pausing in front of each monthly Date, soaking up the extraordinary vibe.

JAN.10,1993 ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN NEW YORK.")

On would have made an exact record of the colour, as he usually did, and would come back to it each time he wanted to make another picture for the Chateau d'Oiron.

FEB.7,1993 ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN NEW YORK.")

Still in New York, painting this February Date. Having seen the Dia Center display of Date Paintings in both January and in February, and, having completed this second of the Chateau d'Oiron's Date Paintings, the artist flew to Paris by February 20 and returned to New York by March 6 having seen the René Denizot-curated show.

Having enjoyed the March installation at Dia, shortly after March 16, On flew to Tokyo.

29 MAR.1993 ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN TOKYO.")

He didn't stay long, but surely Hiroko, Akito and Sahe were there too. Then back to New York with his family before April 9.

"But, O, On thinks, how fast this jet plane flies. Whether between New York and Paris, or New York and Tokyo."

APR.18,1993 ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN NEW YORK.")

On enjoyed the April and May displays at Dia. What a treat to see the moon landing triptych! What a joy to be Date Painting with JULY 16, 20 and 21, 1969, in mind. Shortly after May 16, On flew to Paris. Did On visit Wien to meet up with Kasper Konig and see how his Date Paintings looked in 'Broken Mirror'? Otherwise, On luxuriated at his flat in Paris, and checked out Bordeaux for a forthcoming show. In which vintage city, On painted another Date three days before he painted…

30 MAI.1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN OIRON.")

On took the fast train back to Paris and made another date for the chateau.

4JUIN.1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN PARIS.")

On flew back to New York by June 16 to see the summer set-up at Dia. He date painted a few times at home on the sixth floor of 140 Greene Street: home, SoHo, home.

JULY.15,1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN NEW YORK.")

By August 4, On was in Tokyo again. After all, didn't he usually spend summer there for his children's sake? So that they grew up with a Japanese as well as Western education and culture.

6 AŬG.1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN TOKYO.")

This is the third in what I think of as a Hiroshima triptych. The first was the painting of 24 JULY made in Hiroshima in 1991. The second was 6 AŬG.1992 made on Hiroshima Day in 1992. The third was, as I say, this 6 AŬG.1993, anniversary of the bombing.

In September, On flew back to New York. One asks the question: "Was he going to keep this up all year?" Knowing that the answer was "Yabba- dabba-doo!"

Within a month, On had flown across the Atlantic again.

28. SEPT.1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN FRANKFURT.")

On would have wanted one of the Dates in the chateau to have been painted in Frankfurt, where the Konigs lived. That's Kasper, Eddi, Lili, Coco and the two boys.

No rest for the exalted:

2 OCT.1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN STRASBOURG.")

By this time, the October curation at the Dia Center was installed, so On Kawara flew back to New York to see it. He Date Painted several times but there was no point in getting out the royal blue again until November.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this OCT. moon wanes!"

NOV.21,1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN NEW YORK.")

Still in New York to take in the November install at Dia, then to paint the above Date, the one which features a photo of Jackie Onassis in the associated newspaper cutting.

On stayed in New York long enough to take in the December install at Dia Center: end of the 1000-Date story. Then he made his way to JFK airport and flew back across the Atlantic.

17 DEZ.1993. ("I AM STILL ALIVE IN COLOGNE.")

On stayed in Europe long enough to see the controversial hang at Bordeaux. Then to Germany (to talk strategy with Kasper?) and to paint this Date, the final one for the Chateau.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this DEZ. month wanes!"

For his final flight of the year, On flew straight from Paris to Tokyo knowing that the chateau was adorned with five New York Dates, five painted in Europe (France or Germany) and two painted in Tokyo. Perfecto.

On Kawara's 60th year. And it had passed slowly, one moon at time. Because On was doing something different, and stimulating, every single day. For a start he was Date Painting. But he had given himself the gift of Date Painting for longer than twenty years by this time, and the art world had finally caught up with the enormity of that achievement. Everywhere he turned there was an old Date challenging him to distinguish it from the Date in hand.

"But, O, On thinks, how slow this old Date wanes!"

The 12 paintings that On Kawara presented to the Chateau would look great inside any room in the world. They bring the weight of a lived year into a living space. The day being lived meets the year - divided into twelve months - of lived experience.

They would also adorn the exterior of any building. And to prove my point, I've looked up Wikipedia for a list of outstanding new buildings opened in 1993 and I've chosen to focus on: The Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which is located in Managua, Nicaragua. Below is an image of it, which I have manipulated slightly (ahem) in order to illustrate my point.

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The Church of the Immaculate Menstruation of Mary. If that is not an entirely serious image, then it brings to mind a serious point to do with religion. Christianity. Why was On Kawara spending so much of his life painting the number of years since the death of a man called Jesus Christ? That number had risen from 1966 to 1993 while On Kawara had been recording it so often for 27 years.

Jesus Christ does not play a part in Buddhism, which is the religion that On Kawara was raised in. In Japan, the date was traditionally expressed in terms of the life of the Japanese emperor. For some functions, a switch was made to the Gregorian calendar on 1 January 1873, but for much domestic and regional matters the Japanese year was retained.

When one thinks about it (and there can be no question that On Kawara thought about it a lot) the '1993' is a very arbitrary thing. But humanity has agreed on it, and as well that number as any other.

Increasingly, 1993 AD or 2023 AD, would be thought of as 'Current Era', being represented as 1993 CE or 2023 CE. And I think this makes sense. However, On Kawara used BC (or AD) after every one of the million years in Million Years (Past). And he used AD after every one of the years laid out in Million Years (Future).

To some extent it goes back to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945. As well as killing hundreds of thousands of people, the bomb effectively got rid of the Japanese Gods. At some level, On Kawara was acknowledging this power shift every time he painted '1' followed by '9' followed by '9' followed by '3'. An act of ostensible respect, then. But how much irony was involved in it?

I'm reminded of the scene at the heart of Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust. The novel's protagonist, Tony Last, finds himself lost and dying in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. He is found and restored to health by an elderly indigenous man, who encourages Tony to read aloud from the books of Charles Dickens, of which the illiterate Amazonian, oddly enough, has a complete set. In return for meals and shelter, Tony is effectively forced to read one huge book after another, and when he has read each and every one of them, he is given no choice but to start again from the beginning of Little Dorrit. Groundhog Day! Does that parallel On Kawara's position? The artist playing the role of Tony Last, and Jesus taking the place of Charles Dickens?

And if there was a lot of irony in the Date Painting enterprise. So that you could consider each Date Painting a joke (as well as whatever else they were). Then was the joke not on the artist and his one and only life? In which case, it wasn't a joke at all but deadly earnest.

Oh dear, where did that conclusion come from? I am not thinking straight tonight. I wonder if it is a full moon. Or have I come down with jet lag from all those trips that On took around the world.

Just how many international flights?

New York to Paris, four times.

Paris to New York, three times.

New York to Tokyo, twice.

Tokyo to New York, twice.

Paris or Cologne to Tokyo, once.

That's twelve transatlantic or transpacific or transcontinental flights. One for each Date painting in the installation at Chateau d'Oiron. In 1991 and 1992 he'd made seven and six long flights, respectively. Twelve was a doubling, and in 1994 he kept up this level of jetting about, taking eleven such jet-laggers. What was it all about?

"I'll put a girdle round the world in forty minutes."

"Why, Puck, why?"

What springs to mind is that On may have been trying to give up smoking. He had smoked like a chimney from an early age and was addicted, as were so many men and women of the Twentieth Century . An aeroplane burning off aircraft fuel into the pure blue sky may have been the only thing that could give him the same kick as drawing tobacco smoke through his lungs.

Christ, the end of this essay is all over the place. What's come over me? But I'll leave as is, for the moment, in case it contains a kernel of insight.



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