On Kawara

I’ve recently neglected my blog. My Artworks are sadly far behind being properly updated. For all intents and purposes one could have presumed I had died some sort of art death. Perhaps in many ways I had. The end of university brought with it many things, the of course sense of jubilation at the completion of four years of work, but also with that the relief of not having to read and interpret yet more art. Perhaps the biggest relief being not having to explain ones own art, something I’d started to resist within the course as I grew beyond its confines.
Whilst touching on the subject of “art death”, I’m intrigued by this……….. “I AM STILL ALIVE #art”. A statement on Twitter, produced everyday by the account; On Kawara. Firstly, just who or what is On Kawara? All the university education within art can not make you familiar with everyone, that would just be ludicrous, however as an artist who fancies himself. As a conceptual artist. An avid fan of Yoko Ono. Maybe this Japanese conceptual artist should have been more familiar? His date paintings are of course familiar, I should have looked deeper. And now will. The point however is….. “I AM STILL ALIVE #art”, from On Kawara twitter account. This account replicates his I AM STILL ALIVE telegrams. However this account is not On Kawara, it is not even generated by a person, apparently it is “posted via a Perl script”. That script launched by Pall Thayer, his “confession” is here. And I can’t help but love it. I have of course a fondness for the strange on Twitter, the first account I followed and the very reason for my own twitter account was not a “real” person. My Best Day Ever from Zach Gage. (http://www.stfj.net/art/2009/best%20day%20ever/). I love the brightness this brings to a dull day. So the point to this look at I AM STILL ALIVE? Well the first time I came accross it I was in excruciating pain. A few weeks back with the last efforts of university behind me I was not in a good way. I was using every pain killer issued to me, from the lowly paracetamol & ibuprofen through tramadol and up to the morphine. All the morphine. So this statement of I AM STILL ALIVE #art brought a question of mortality to me, I found my answer as; I AM DYING, or ALIVE IS A PAINFUL STRUGGLE. But should I reply? Does On Kawara look for answers from people he sends his telegrams and postcards to? Does our answer need to stay inside? How beautiful is it to reply in person to a generated script and the struggle of life? What is to be learnt from this? My answer is of course to follow and reply each day about just what alive is. Alive to me, alive to those around me and those not.

When I read about an artist I can not help but equate my own work along with theirs. It makes the ‘liking’ of them easier I feel. So when now I read of the blandness of his work, with documentation of routes and pathways. Journeys of the body reflecting directly in his work, I can’t help to think of ‘Middle of the Road’ & ‘Manchester A Personal Space‘.

Middle of the Road‘ is an on-going piece. Concerned with banality of middle-class suburbia, where I live and breath. “Middle of the road” often seen as a synonym for political centrism, it is of course much more than that. With these films I am asking the viewers to look beyond the predictability of the images presented, asking them to meditate on the human condition which is “the middle”. As a side note the tutors at university that viewed this film blanked it. No comments, no feedback, nothing. I have to thank them for the irony if nothing else. I should have of course passed it by more tutors, sometimes as I am sure is the way with all universities the tutors at salford uni just didn’t get it. Sometimes not a problem, as of course we all don’t understand everything, that is the joy of life. However to some tutors if they didn’t get it, well you were wrong! It was a constant surprise that whilst teaching it isn’t all about the aesthetic, so much of what gained their approval wouldn’t have looked out of place sold on eBay. All things considered I am glad I’ve carried this project on. My morning walk with Rudy (and now Izzy too) means I’m building a substantial collection of material, plus coming to understand a little more what I am actually doing!

Manchester A Personal Space‘; again took at its heart the banal walk. However this time I was looking a little more introspectively. Myself and the other lives that passed by my life within Manchester. Documenting the lives that inflicted the terra firma; chewing gum embedded in the pavement, fag butts against the kerb, tarmac patches covering the work of men below. The route taken was straight across Manchester, from Salford or Manchester Piccadilly train station. At the time I had no support package within Uni; so this walk across town had become essential for financial reasons, and incredibly painful for obvious reasons. At the end of the day at university this walk had become like a cross to bare, riddled with pain I reflected on the lives of others within my home town. A kind of meditation to bring relief. So camera phone in hand I documented that walk, taking pictures with my phone as fast as it would let me. Bringing an element of randomness I love. ( I had considered taking over lapping pictures with a real camera, then joining them together for one great long picture. Maybe another day for that.) That randomness, plus the movement and how it was dealt with my the phones internal structure is beautiful. I didn’t have to, or even want to do anything with the pictures in an edit. They sit as they were taken. Again I have a fondness for the work that far outstretches any positive feedback I got in University. Although a while back now so maybe I just don’t recall. I do remember the pain of that walk though; thankfully the disability support I later got enabled me to carry on university, something that just couldn’t have happened without it.

On Kawara ‘I Went’

I am Still Alive: The Search for On Kawara


On Kawara is not On Twitter

About:Emvergeoning is an art blog based in San Antonio, Tex. The name is a word coined by Aaron Forland. We’re still trying to figure out what it means.


People take On Kawara Twitter feed to be his, without real question

Does On Kawara get up and think, am I real on twitter? https://twitter.com/afteronkawara


Decision made………. Reply. Reply with how I am when I read that tweet. A human response to a computer script. There is an innate beauty to that.

  1. Zoe said:

    Although I am an artist, I had no idea, when I began posting my ‘Daily Updates’ in May 2011, that this fake On Kawara account existed. I came across it about 10 minutes ago and am shocked. I am familiar with Kawara’s work but only knew about the postcards (that the fake account borrows from) via hearsay. I began posting the phrase #i’mstillalive, followed by the date, because it was to the point. I post every day, by hand. Often, when I was out of wifi range, and the tweet acciddently saved to draft, I would back date when I was back in range. Now, when i miss a post, I don’t post date and just continue the best i can. I feel it is more honest. The process is also tedious.
    The impetus came out a phone conversation I had with a friend. It was a difficult time, and, during our chat, I surmised how long it would take someone to know whether I was alive or dead. I’m not on Facebook, and twitter seemed like the best vehicle. It is my first and only account. In essence, it is a comment on this ‘connected’ Facebook generation.
    So, I find myself saddened to read you’re comments. It makes me sorry that you and others (whom you’ve stated do no resesarch on the account) feel self affirmed by these computer generated posts which have nothing to do with the artist, or any living being at all. In a sense, it just confirms my suspicions about the over saturated, star-driven, media communications age. Whereas On Kawara’s art documents his life or real time, this post does no such thing. The real On Kawara, is totally overlooked. No one could care less. This is just a computer spitting out dates. Moreover, the decision of the fake twitterer to continue to post regardless of On Kawara’s eventual death (I hope he lives long) is conceptually baseless. His argument makes no sense. I do give him credit for copying Kawara’s formal style for the fake account.
    Like the fake account, I’ve not marketed this to family or friends. I have about 10 followers, whereas the art star/computer has hundreds. So be it.
    I’m happy people get inspiration where they can find it. In this instance- I AM STILL ALIVE- i just wish it was attached to something that was living.

  2. Hi Zoe

    Very interesting to hear abut your posts along the ‘I am still alive’ vein, it got me to wondering just how many like yourself post along these lines without the knowledge of the ‘On Kawara’ script. Maybe they are just Pearl Jam fans, maybe both?! A search of the phrase just turns up too much on Twitter, on Google some interesting ones though like this http://greyisgood.eu/stillalive/ or http://ajuiceboxer.tumblr.com or http://www.tv.com/shows/im-still-alive/
    However I digress. So to the point….
    It’s a shame you feel saddened and sorry, I didn’t see me being “self affirmed” by the script generation. Although I will meditate on that one. I would rather see my self affirmation coming from the experience of real life I am having, the knowledge that the pain, suffering, joy and love I feel are what makes me, me. Compared to the blank production of a script that affirms it is alive.
    I think you raise an interesting point that the real On Kawara is overlooked, but is he? If people believe this to be him and have faith that it is him, how does that work? At the moment we’d need to ask 3,163 people, probably more by time I finish this post! Would it kill the illusion for them if asked?
    Anyway, if nothing else the account raises some great questions. I hope you continue to post to your twitter account your “#i’mstillalive”, it’s a shame you’ve not mentioned your twitter username as I’d have liked to have followed you. Thank you for your comments, they are warmly received.

    I am sat at my desk


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