1977 (1)



INTRO

A lot of compelling stuff happens to On Kawara this year. This essay
should be crammed full of insight as to what was happening to the artist. But, from a research point of view, it's also quite complicated, and I think presents an opportunity to delve deeper into my attempts to access the complete 'I GOT UP AT', 'I WENT' and 'I MET', since my experience with each has been so divergent.

In other words, prepare to be surprised as I outline On Kawara's dealings and achievements in Europe throughout this year. But prepare also to be impressed by the help given by one library (the Art Gallery of Ontario re 'I MET'), not so impressed with my progress with another (University of Michigan Library re 'I WENT') and optimistic that a particular private collector in Paris is going to come up with the goods re 'I GOT UP AT.' My fingers remain tightly crossed on this last possibility.

What sort of way is that to introduce what should be a straightforward, scholarly account of a fascinating individual? It is what it is. Maybe I'll be able to dispense with it later.




ONE

The year began in Berlin. On would surely have gone to the exhibition of his friend, Koichi Ono. The photo below, shows Koichi at the time of his solo exhibition at Galeria Folker Skulima, Niebuhrstrasse 2, in West Berlin, 21 December 1976 to 26 January 1977. He's showing paintings featuring a lattice of raised squares, squares he would go on to systematically destroy, but not until 1979 or so, by which time On Kawara was long gone from Berlin.


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


I have marked the Folker Kumila Gallery on the map below, the pale blue circle north of Kurfurstendamm. I have also marked the René Block Gallery, the pale orange circle south of Kurfurstendamm and towards the right edge of the map.

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

There are no 'I WENT' maps available in published books for Berlin in 1977. If I had access to Michele Didier's complete I WENT, which presently I don't, it would take me ten minutes to look through the daily maps produced from 21 December, 1976 to 26 January, 1977, looking for a day when On Kawara's movements took him into the pale blue circle.

Having completed that exercise, I would then investigate how often On Kawara's movements took him to the pale orange circle. The René Block Gallery was surely the focal point for much artistic happenings in 1976/77 and I expect we would find that On Kawara was often there. I would then scrutinise the corresponding I MET lists for those René Block days, and thereby further develop a picture of On Kawara's artistic connections in this important year for him.

I've written to the University of Michigan telling them that they are the only library in the world that has 'I WENT', according to Worldcat. And I've asked for seven scans relating to On's visit to London in May, 1977 (my request re the Berlin material would not be specific enough to merit a positive response at this stage).

Actually, I've written to four different people at the Uni of Michigan, but have not yet managed to elicit a very helpful response. I've been told that the Fine Arts Library is responsible for the material, which was bought for one of its faculty members. I suspect that would have been for Professor Joan Key of the History of Art department, who, as a contributing editor to
Art Forum, has written most confidently and knowledgeably about On Kawara.

Alas, Professor Kee hasn't replied to my email. Perhaps I will just have to accept that this is going to prove a dead end for now. However, I'm awaiting a response
from the individual who co-ordinates the 'Ask a Librarian' service at the Uni of Michigan Library, so I choose to remain hopeful in the medium term, while at the same time moving swiftly on.



TWO

Let's start again, from a more solid base, the 'I GOT UP AT' postcards reproduced in the
On Kawara 1976 Berlin 1986 catalogue. The year began with the postcards going out to Jurgen Wesseler (for the first time) and Frank Donegan (man of mystery).

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

Later in 1977, Jurgen Wesseler would make an exhibition of postcards received from On Kawara in December 1976 and January 1977, which is perhaps why On resumed sending him cards in April, 1977. To help flesh out the show?

Next the cards went to Ansell Bray in New York and Kenzo Tatsuno in New Jersey. Below is a page showing some of those cards:

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

Ansell Bray sold his 27 postcards in 2000, I now realise. Earlier this year I asked Ansell if he still had his cards, and he didn't answer. I get the impression that the original recipients of On Kawara postcards in general don't like to be asked about them. There is so much monetary value and friendship wrapped up in them, that it must become a loaded topic.

Kenzo Tatsuno has been selling off his cards in twos and threes. I don't know who he is and I can't tell if he's still got any left.

All right, let's go up gear. In the second half of February, On took a trip to Dusseldorf:

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

I imagine this was to hook up with Konrad Fischer. Konrad Fischer had been the first European gallerist to show On's work: 'One Million Years' was shown in 1971. A first show of Date Paintings was shown there in 1972. Date Paintings made in 1973 (in Stockholm and Halifax) were shown in Dusseldorf in 1975. And paintings made in Berlin in 1976 would be shown in Dusseldorf in 1978. Perhaps it was this that was being discussed between artist and dealer.

Below is the 'I WENT' for 19 February, courtesy of
On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality. It seems from the writing on both edges of the map that a journey, by rail, was made to and from Cologne that day.

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

Indeed, on February 19, On Kawara did not visit Konrad Fischer's gallery at Platanenstrasse 7, north and east of the station. Perhaps he had done that on February 18. I must consider asking AGO (Art Gallery Ontario) for the 'I MET' for a few of these Dusseldorf days. As you can see from the next reproduction, On was absent from Berlin between the 18th and 24th of February, which is when he was in Dusseldorf and wherever else he went to. Actually, that is quite a significant interval. The longest absence from Berlin in the year, apart from the two-months spent in New York in the spring of 1976.

I have now asked AGO for the 'I MET' lists for these seven days in February.

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

And AGO have already got back to me with the requested information. What great service from a library I have no formal affiliation with! I'm just a citizen of the same art world. As things stand, it seems like such a long distance between Toronto, Ontario, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. And yet geographically they are quite close, in the Great Lakes region of North America, though on different sides of the Canadian/US border.

February 18, 1977
Hiroko Hiraoka
Kasper König
Klaus Bussmann
Dorothee Fischer
Konrad Fischer
Bruce Nauman
Berta Fischer
Kasper Fischer
Gilbert and George
Hiroshi Hirose
Kazuko Kanuma

Looking at tis list, clearly something was going on in Dusseldorf, no doubt in connection with the Konrad Fischer Gallery. The list shows that On met four members of the Fischer family: Konrad, Dorothee, and their children, Berta and Kasper. There was an interview with Berta in
Der Tagesspiegel in 2018 which gives pertinent information about this time. Here is an extract:

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I should think so, what with Bruce Nauman in his cowboy boots, Gilbert and George in their tailored suits, and On Kawara - Mr Invisible.

Gilbert and George had two shows with Konrad Fischer in 1977, so I think February 18 would have been the opening for either 'New Photo-pieces' or 'Dirty Words Pictures'. Google seems reluctant to come up with the precise information. G&G were creating some bold work around then, juxtaposing photos of themselves with scenes of urban deprivation.

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


This text from the Tate puts it well:

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Gilbert and George as Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. With the Kawaras being from New York, and having travelled the world, they would have had no trouble relating to this work. At least I don't think so. On had met Bruce Nauman and Gilbert and George on separate occasions in 1971, per the 'I MET' lists, so he knew what he letting himself in for when he and Hiroko arranged this Dusseldorf outing.

February 19, 1977
Hiroko Hiraoka
Konrad Fischer

Feb. 19 is the date I have the 'I WENT' map for, reproduced several images back. So the Kawaras went to Cologne for the day with Konrad Fischer. Perhaps he wanted to show them something. Perhaps he wanted a break from the cowboy boots and the tweed suits. Perhaps it was Konrad making sure he paid each of his artist guests sufficient individual attention.

February 20, 1977
Hiroko Hiraoka
Kasper König
Gilbert and George
Konrad Fischer

Feb.20 was a Sunday, and at 11am there was a book launch at Konrad Fischer. The book was
Dark Shadow, a volume dedicated to the work of Gilbert and George. Which is no doubt why the artist pair stuck around in Dusseldorf.

On Kawara has made two I MET lists for Feb. 20 as he travelled on - with Hiroko and Kasper - to Paris in the afternoon or evening.

(In Paris)
Kasper König
Hiroko Hiraoka
Annick Boisnard

There he met Annick Boisnard, who was something in the Parisian art world, but had not yet written her books on Daniel Buren, he being an artist who was showing when On Kawara had visited the Nova Scotia School of Art back in 1971.

February 21, 1977
Hiroko Hiraoka
Kasper König
Jean-Hubert Martin
Alfred Pacquement
Claes Oldenburg
Coosje Van Bruggen
Pontus Hulten
Annick Boisnard
Nathalie Brunet
Jacques Lichnerowicz
Henri Bouilhet

Clearly, On had travelled to Paris in connection with his forthcoming show at the newly opened Pompidou Centre. Four people on the list were part of that organisation. Pontus Hulten, who had been running the Moderne Museée in Stockholm had been appointed as the Pompidou Centre's director. (Back in 1972, On Kawara had sent him many postcards, and On's residency in Stockholm at the end of 1972 and the beginning of 1973 had been at Hulten's invitation.) Jean Hubert Martin had been chosen by Pontus Hulten as Curator of Contemporary Art. Alfred Pacquement also worked at the Pompidou Centre, his title being Exhibition Co-ordinator. And Nathalia Brunet was also a curator at the Pompidou Centre.

Shall I complete the list? Jacques Lichnerowicz was-and-is a Parisian architect. While Henri Bouihet runs a silverware business in Paris.

In this case, it's Claes Oldenburg and his partner, Coosje Van Bruggen that are the other artists hanging around. Not sure if they actually had a show at the time or were discussing a future project. Doesn't really matter (posits the lazy researcher). Actually, the Pompidou Centre produced a book on Claes Oldenburg's work in 1977, so he must have had a show there that year.

February 22, 1977
Hiroko Hiraoka
Coosje Van Bruggen
Nathalie Brunet
Kasper König
Klaus Bussmann
Hubert Comte
Jean Seyrig
Pontus Hulten
Alfred Pacquement

Another Pompidou day, with its staff, Pontus Hulten, Alfred Pacquement and Nathaliie Brunet. The idea was to show the 97 On Kawara Date Paintings that were created in the first three months of 1970. I suspect that On Kawara stayed out of the curatorial discussion. These would largely have been between Kasper Konig and Pontus Hulten, with the rest of the Pompidou team listening closely, ditto On and Hiroko. It would have been obvious to all that the basic material they had to work with was remarkable, and all they had to do was make it happen. In the wonderful new gallery space in the middle of Paris!

Others on the list? Klaus Bussmann had been in Dusseldorf a few days before and was perhaps in Paris representing Konrad Fischer's interests. Hubert Comte was a French writer and art critic of On Kawara's generation, who died in 2009. I'm not sure who Jean Seyrig was, but I'm not going to let that slow me down.

February 23, 1977
Hiroko Hiraoka
Kasper König
Klaus Bussmann
Alfred Paquement
Nathalie Brunet
Donald Karshan
Jean Seyrig
Jacky Pouplard
Pontus Hulten
Daniel Spoerri

A third day with team Pompidou. Three new names though. Donald Karshan was a New York-based art writer, critic and collector. Jacky Popular is mentioned in connection with the making of books at the Pompidou Centre. Daniel Spoerri is/was a Swiss artist.

February 24, 1977
Hiroko Hiraoka

And breathe… A day by themselves in Paris, then back to Berlin. On Kawara taking it all in his stride.

Back to work: "Postcard for Preisig!"

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

Rolf Preisig would be another gallerist to arrange a show of On Kawara's work later in 1977. That is, in October he would show 11 Date Paintings from 1976. Meaning he would be getting in there a few months before Konrad Fischer.

Talking of Date Paintings, how were they coming along? The fact is, On was hardly doing any. He had made one in Berlin in each of January and February. He went on to make two in March in New York, then one in April and one at the beginning of May, before embarking on another European journey. Moreover, he would not make any Date Paintings in Europe, none until back in New York in late June.

I don't have much information about this time in New York, between Berlin and the return to Europe. Perhaps it was when the move was made to 140 Greene Street. After all, the Kawaras hadn't needed a flat in New York for the last year. But they needed one again, post-Berlin.

Below is the 'I MET' for April 16. Everyone on the list is a close friend or an artist. The first name on the list, plus the last three, were all artists, though not necessarily close friends. Hiroko, Hirotsugu, Teresa, and Kasper were On's buddies.

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



THREE

Let's start a new section of this essay in May. That's when On Kawara took a cruise on the QE2 from New York to Southampton. I promise the patient reader that this essay is going to take off soon. Please, sit back and relax in the comfort of your luxuriously appointed cabin.

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

Not a bad address, The North Atlantic.

By this time the postcards were going to Jurgen Wesseler, in Bremhaven. and Helen Lewis, in Los Angeles. As mentioned, the former would organise a show of the postcards he received later in the year. While Helen Lewis helped with the curation of a show of Date Paintings at the Otis Art Institute at the end of 1977. I'll say more about that show later. For now, let's just point out that I'm still hoping to see the May postcards that were sent to Helen Lewis. She received postcards in May, June and July. The July ones never got to her. They were returned to sender and are now with the One Million Years Foundation. The June cards she recently sold to Larkin Erdmann, an art historian, collector and dealer based in Zurich. He has been selling those cards on individually, partly through his gallery's presence at Art Fairs such as Frieze in London. He's kindly put me in touch with Helen Lewis and I may yet find out who now has the May postcards.

But for now let's sit back and enjoy the cruise. This idiosyncratic map confirms something significant.


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

As ever, the red line shows On Kawara's movement from midnight to midnight. In that time the QE2 moved some distance across the Atlantic in accordance with the entire journey from New York to Southampton taking four to five days. The red dot indicates when On Kawara got up at 8.20am. In other words about a third of the way through the 24-hour period, about a third of the way along the QE2's route for May 11.

AGO has kindly provided me with all the 'I MET' lists from this new European adventure that I've requested from them, beginning with May 11:

May 11, 1977
Sebastian Mattioli
Anna Pokomandy
Emmanuel Attard
Doug Morrison
Gerd Kubaczk
Alfredo Campos

The names of the people On Kawara met on board the cruise liner remind me of the exotic names on those first 1968 'I MET' lists when On was staying at the hotel in Mexico. Who are these people? I don't know. Men and women rich enough - and leisured enough - to travel from America to Europe by ship. Not the sort of person to make a big impression on internet history, perhaps. Or maybe I haven't traced anyone because these individuals could have any background at all, not simply an art world connection. People are easier to trace if you know they are of the relatively small art world.

Of course, the really significant thing about this list is that Hiroko Hiraoka is not on it. Why was On Kawara travelling alone? I think I can understand why he was travelling by boat, for the novelty of it. But I don't know why his wife and travelling companion was not by his side. Perhaps Hiroko was ill. Oh well, maybe in due course I will find out what accounts for her absence.

Our artist on a cruise across the Atlantic with no Hiroko and no Date Painting. What on earth was On doing in the absence of his two beloveds? I suppose the throb of the engines might have made Date Painting difficult. There was bound to be some roll on the boat, and some vibration. But, as we'll see, On wasn't doing his thing in the European cities either. Very strange. Totally normal for anyone else, very strange for On Kawara.

I suspect once the QE2 arrived in Southampton on May 13, On travelled directly to Paris. Certainly that's where he was on May 14:

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

As one can work out from the 'I WENT' map, below, the Hotel de la Bretonnerie is not far from the Pompidou Centre where a selection of On's Date Paintings were showing until May 16 (so he was cutting it fine in order to see his own show). The Pompidou Centre was still a building site when the printed part of his map was created. It would rise up where there are several parallel red lines in the top right hand corner of the map.

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

As I mentioned in connection with his February visit, the 97 paintings were painted on consecutive days from January 1, 1970 to March 31, 1970. During this period, On meticulously painted, to a high degree of perfection, a minimum of one painting each day. But on five days he painted two, and on another single day, three. What a special day March 18, 1970 was! That’s the day he must have been painting almost all his waking hours, managing to perfect ‘MAR.18,1970’ thrice.

As I mentioned, the curators responsible for instigating the show at Pompidou Centre were from the Musée Moderne in Stockholm. In other words, this show had its origins in On Kawara's residency in Stockholm. This is further confirmed when one looks at the 'I MET' list that AGO has kindly sent me:

May 14, 1977
Veronique Legrand
Björn Springfeldt
Milla Trägårdh

Veronique Legrand was an assistant curator at the Pompidou Centre. Björn Springfeldt and Milla Trägårdh were from the Moderne Musée and both were sent 'I AM STILL ALIVE' telegrams back in 1973.

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

But let us return to the 'I WENT' map, whose source is
On Kawara: Horizontality/Verticality. It reveals that On Kawara made one other major stop that day, presumably after taking leave of that subset of the curatorial team that he'd been with. Alone (in my mind's eye) he made his way to the only skyscraper in the city, and took the lift to the 56th floor, which apparently only takes 38 seconds.

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Then a short walk up stairs would have taken On to the roof terrace with its views over Paris. He was on top of Montparnasse Tower, constructed from 1969 to 1973.

A good view? I'm supposing that On Kawara looked out for the Pompidou Centre, newly opened in January of that year, famous the world over for having all its colourful pipes and servicing on the outside of the building. And well-known to me for having all of On's Date Paintings on the inside.

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On Kawara: watcher from the hills. I must bear in mind that On had done this once before. That is, in Cleveland on September 10, 1975, On had split his day between visiting Cleveland Art Museum (five excellent Van Goghs) and going to the top of Terminal Tower, with a fine view over Lake Eiry. At a push he would have been able to see both the Art Gallery of Ontario and the University of Michigan Library that day.

Anyway, back to Paris, May 1977. The show at the Pompidou Centre may have included the 97 paintings from Jan. 1, 1970 to 31 March, 1970, but only some of them were hung on the walls, while the rest of them were exhibited horizontally, in their cardboard boxes, displayed inside vitrines. This would have interrupted the stream of time that would have been visible if all the paintings had been hung on the walls, in date order, as On Kawara may have intended them to be hung, and as they would be hung in the show at the Guggenheim just a few months after his death in 2014.

Relevant here, is how On Kawara had hung the Date Paintings in 1966 when his studio was a massive Manhattan loft. All the way around the main space of his studio ran two rows of Date Paintings. A row of small-sized paintings at eye level, which he referred to as size A and B, while resting on the floor was another row of larger paintings, size C , D, E and F.

In addition, On Kawara had an office space adjacent to the main space and, though not all the walls of the office were preserved for posterity via On Kawara’s documenting photographs, he did take photos of one wall. And a single photograph shows that by the end of 1966 there were five rows of small, size A and B Date Paintings, the hanging of which had gradually restricted where On Kawara could sit on his day bed without placing his back against a painting. At the end of 1966, after taking that final photograph of the studio, showing a wall chockablock with Date Paintings, On Kawara must have felt that he had achieved his ambition of 'collecting' and displaying a year's dates. Yet still he may have dreamed of seeing the dates elegantly spaced throughout the galleries of a white cube.

He must have realised on May 14, 1977 that this day, a day that he’d had such high hopes of, had not quite hit the spot. And indeed that such a day might not arrive until the end of his life. Everything would fall exactly into place, all his days would fall exactly into line, at more or less the same moment that the whole thing collapsed in on itself and consciousness was lost forever.

Perhaps that's hyperbole. Maybe going to the top of the highest building on the same day he'd been looking at those 97 paintings - which had been done several years before while ensconced in his studio paying close attention to the interface of his paintbrush and the canvas - was a way of reminding himself that the purpose of the close concentration was the distance that one achieved from everyday life. On Kawara, the reserved painter and reader of the
New York Times, was really On Kawara, watcher on the hills.

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Another aspect of this perspective (I must milk it for all its worth) is the bird's eye view of world famous monuments. There is the Eiffel Tower, far beneath the viewing platform atop Montparnasse Tower. This is the kind of view glorified on the postcards that On Kawara began to send to Dan Graham from February 27, 1970. That is, in the middle of his three-month marathon Date Painting effort.

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And On went on sending Dan that identical postcard from February 27 until July 7, 1970. Same card, same watcher on the hills. 135 in all. So what had been a three-month period of absolute dedication to working in the studio, ended up being another three months flying high as a kite. Something like that, anyway.

Also worth bearing in mind is that in 1972, On Kawara spent the summer sending Pontus Hulten 'I GOT UP AT' postcards from New York, from late May to early September. 116 in all.

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

Don't tell me these weren't instrumental in getting On Kawara a show at the Pompidou Centre five years later. Indeed, I can't help thinking that these postcards, along with the telegrams to Pontus Hulten's Swedish colleagues, should have been part of the Pompidou show. Apparently the press and public didn't respond very well to the Date Paintings. Maybe the curators didn't try hard enough to seduce the audience. Maybe they didn't try as hard as On Kawara had tried to get his first audience - the curators - onside.

Step into the public's shoes for a moment. (It's another perspective available from on high.) They walk into the gallery. They see a whole lot of almost identical, near-black paintings. The first room includes:

JAN.1,1970… JAN.2,1970… JAN.3,1970… JAN.4,1970… JAN.5,1970… JAN.6,1970… JAN.7,1970… JAN.8,1970… JAN.9,1970… JAN.10,1970…

It would be awfully easy to interpret that as the following:

JAP.1,1945… JAP.2,1945… JAP.3,1945… JAP.4,1945… JAP.5,1945… JAP.6,1945… JAP.7,1945… JAP.8,1945… JAP.9,1945… JAP.10,1945…

In other words, in what was still in many ways the post-war era (in part thanks to Viet Nam), it was possibly asking too much of the French public to get the real, existential intention of On Kawara's work. Besides, the atomic bombing of his country
did have a permanent impact on his psyche. Sure, On Kawara left the land of his birth in his late twenties and internationalised himself. However, you can take the artist out of Japan, but you can't take Japan out of the artist.

A big moment in Paris, despite the show's poor reception. Or at least that's what I'm presently thinking, based on a study of the limited - but invaluable - evidence that On Kawara left behind. And in particular that little red box in the bottom right corner of a detail from the day's 'I WENT', where the viewing platform is:

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

A few more perspectives before I move away from this top spot:

  • Standing here reminds me of that passage in Titus Groan, the first volume of the 'Gormenghast' trilogy, when Steerpike emerges from the labyrinthine corridors of the castle and has a view of the whole sprawling stone mass of the castle's exterior. Steerpike is a brilliant, ambitious man, and he spends hours looking at every turret, every window, every passage, creating a mental picture that he feels will be of use to him later in his plot to take control of the castle.

  • Standing here reminds me too that The Independent on Sunday had offices in Canary Wharf, at the time the tallest building in London, when I went there in 1998 on being presented with a weekly column to write about contemporary art as an unexpected bonus from the publication of my book, Personal Delivery. Right now, standing on Montparnasse Tower I'm remembering those glory days for me, which lasted from 1998 to 2001.

  • Did On Kawara think of those three months in 1970, subject of Date Painting upon Date Painting, as glory days? Did he think of May 14, 1977 as a glory day? Or did he continue to think of each day as the only one worth living, because consciousness itself could never be topped, could never be embellished by personal relationship or achievement. Putting Steerpike's and my own sense of worldly ambition in perspective?

  • How can I put this next perspective? Given the title that On Kawara gave to his own 2002 show that began its world tour in Birmingham, let me quote the title page of Watcher on the Hills by Raynor C. Johnson:

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Me: "Don't jump, On. Promise me you won't jump."

On: "I AM STILL ALIVE."

Where next? I can't be sure. The next 'I GOT UP At' I have access to is a week later, by which time On Kawara was in Brussels:

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

The hotel is bottom left of his route. And down the right-hand side are the names of two roads that On Kawara travelled off the map to. But it's the two or three places he seems to have stopped at in the middle of the map that I will investigate.

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

Well, I've had a quick look and have nothing significant to report. On seems to have visited the Bourse, a stock exchange building. Then wandered close to the Grand Palace, possibly to find a nice place to eat. He's gone further south in the city, but I can't tell why.

Again it may help to have the I MET for this day. So that's what I'll try and do. Add May 21 to my list of requests for AGO. No, hang on, I've already got that as part of my original package. (Even better service: instantaneous!) Here are the names:

May 21, 1977
Minoru Matsumoto
Anne Hauben

Ah, now I get it! A Google search of Anne Hauben brings up the slightest mention of The Museum of Beaux Arts, Brussels. And note this, the Date Painting
10.JAN,1973, which had been made in Stockholm, and had been shown as part of 'One Year's Production' in Bern. Well, that show had moved on to Beaux Arts in Brussels. Then the Date Painting had appeared in Konrad Fischer's Gallery in Dusseldorf and now was back in Brussels as part of 'American Art in Belgium'.

At least two Date Paintings were shown in 'American Art in Belgium', the other being
JULY9,1973. The exhibition was open from 25 May to 28 August, 1977. The opening would have been on May 24 or May 25. Clearly, On Kawara had gone to Brussels to see his own work in this context. It's possible that he would have gone to the opening, as few people in the Belgian capital would have known him. Let's have a look at what AGO have sent me:

May 24, 1977
No names listed.

Inconclusive. On balance I feel that if there was a private opening on the evening before the public opening, On Kawara didn't go to it.

May 25, 1977
René Denizot

Either On Kawara went around the show at the Beaux Arts de Bruxelles on his own, and then travelled to Paris to meet René Denizot, who had provided the text for
One Year's Production; or René was in Brussels and they saw the show together. If I had 'I WENT' for May 25, 1977, this would be easy to work out. Without it, for now, I'm going to assume that On Kawara saw the show on his own, then took the train to Paris and met his friend. He would then have stayed for night in Paris, and got up early in order to meet the people that he met in London on May 26.

Fine. Let's go round the show on our own, which we can do thanks to the arrival of this catalogue.

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That's a Robert Indiana painting on the front. Red letters on a blue background. Or blue shapes and symbols on a red background. Psychedelic, baby.

The show, drawn from public and private collections of art in Belgium, contains many 'masterpieces' of 20th Century American art. Such as
a Jackson Pollock drip painting. And this:

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

That seems such a powerful painting. Or is it just Art History telling me that's what I should think?

Also, this, which seems to have a surprising amount of bleakness/blackness in common with the Rothko:

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

This exhibition would be the first time that On Kawara got to see his work in such exalted company. There were many of his contemporaries from Conceptual Art in the show as well. Dan Graham, John Baldessari, Sol LeWitt, Bruce Nauman and Joseph Kosuth were all represented. Indeed, a letter had gone to the show's organisers, signed by LeWitt, Kosuth and Dan Graham, objecting to the fact that none of the artists in the show had been asked about the hanging of their work. I suppose that was just the Conceptualists showing that they cared more about the context in which their work was shown than the object itself.

I don't know whose work On Kawara was shown in the same room as, but here is how it appears in the catalogue:

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

Imagine those two Dates between the Rothko and the Warhol. Kawara would have been made for life. Not that he wasn't 'made for life' as things stood.

On Kawara has a second page in the catalogue. Here it is:

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

I see this work as bouncing off the work of Kawara's fellow Conceptualists. For instance, the piece by Joseph Kosuth pictured below. Though for me it is a tedious one-liner. Which is what some critics would say about the 'I GOT UP AT' postcards.

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

Next is the page allotted to John Baldessari.

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

I suspect that, in the exhibition, there were 14 photographs of a man flying a kite. The photo that's been enlarged for illustrative purposes is certainly needed to establish what's going on in the series. Yes, a figure on the horizon. Yes, a kite just visible in the sky.

You, dear reader, will be wanting to see Dan Graham's contribution to this feast of culture. Well, here it is:

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

It doesn't communicate very much. The artist's writing below the works is too small to read. And the page is printed in black and white. I wouldn't be surprised if the catalogue didn't prompt another letter of complaint to the organisers, signed by Dan Graham
et al, damning the Beaux Arts de Brussels for further ghettoising the world of the Conceptualists.

Dan: "We are being taken for assholes here, On."

On: "I prefer to see the show for myself."

Dan: "All I ask is that you take an axe to the Kosuth."

On: "I note that the erratum slip placed inside the catalogue mentions that two paintings have been reproduced upside down."

Dan: "Assholes."

A few days after seeing his own solo show at the Pompidou Centre, On Kawara walked round an exhibition of American art featuring his own work alongside that of Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Europe in the palm of his hand. What next?

On Kawara had known René Denizot, philosopher and author, for some time and they'd held intensive talks in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In a letter from Kasper Konig to the director of Bern Kunsthaus, it was emphasised how logical and desirable it was to get René Denizot to write the catalogue essay, and that a letter confirming such a commission needed to be sent to him at his Paris address.

René Denizot would write further essays for On Kawara publications as follows. For a French catalogue published by Yvon Lambert in 1979. For the catalogue published by a Frankfurt gallery in 1991. And for the Phaidon catalogue for which Jonathan Watkins wrote the main essay in 2002. But let's examine the first text, which would have been the only one in print by 1977. It is what one might call a 'difficult' text, being so abstract. But as it so clearly had On Kawara's approval, we must give it some attention:

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, René Denizot.

Reminds me a bit of Samuel Beckett's style and content. The writer of the above text enjoys playing with words, and the double meaning of words like 'reading'. The word 'read' crops up 8 times. The word 'reading' occurs 9 times. And I find myself
reading furtively over the writing. Can we skip a few pages? Let us go to page 8 of 9, which I think we can do without feeling that we've left out too much that is essential to pick up on:

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, René Denizot.

Getting exciting, isn't it? Sorry to have broken in on that unfinished sentence. I do so to say simply that what follows is the ninth and last page of this text that has been written by René Denizoot in 1974 and may be being read by you, dear reader, in 2021 at the earliest:

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Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder, René Denizot.

Actually, that last page is all one sentence, a sentence that is broken by the page break. Let's try and put it in a slightly more condensed form:

'But in the very field where the presumed totality is set forth and ordered, there is an indication of a dis-location, turning everything upside down.'

I've a sneaking feeling that René Denizot is saying that his own text is problematical. That it is pointless. That there is nothing to say about On Kawara's work, which is beyond words.

If that is the case, then how come I seem to be able to write reams about it? Is it because what I'm writing is entirely beside the point? I hope not. I would suggest that the key to writing about On Kawara's Date Paintings is the trickle of biographical information provided by the self-observational works 'I GOT UP AT', 'I WENT' and 'I MET', none of which Denizot mentions.

Consciousness is the main thing, but no-one on Earth chooses to sit up in bed all day simply marvelling at that consciousness. Walking the street, being in the company of other conscious entities, is all part of the amazement of consciousness.

Loss of consciousness, there's the rub. Not being able to say on a postcard 'I GOT UP AT'. Not to be able to trace on a map 'I WENT'. Not to be able to type on a sheet of paper 'I MET'.

I'm going to have to think further about all that. A good time to have a break, as we're almost halfway through the year. Please join me before too long on the
next page.