I am still alive

Some people say:

The work of On Kawara is worrying and disturbing because it remembers us the insignificance of our lives.

For me On Kawara is disturbing and also extremely beautiful – not because he shows me the insignificance of my life, but rather because he underlines the preciousness of of it all

and also

because his work is documenting the unbearable lightness of being, reminding me to show up, be here – now …!  On Kawara’s art invites us, just like mindfulness training, to be continuously present with experience.


On Kawara, I Got Up, 1972, Series of 108 postcards sent to Herman Daled daily between May 18 and September 3, 1972


Regarding the  I GOT UP series, the Met says:

Considered the most personal and intimate of his works, I GOT UPis part of a continuous piece produced by On Kawara between 1968 and 1979 in which each day the artist sent two different friends or colleagues a picture postcard, each stamped with the exact time he arose that day and the addresses of both sender and recipient. The length of each correspondence ranged from a single card to hundreds sent consecutively over a period of months; the gesture’s repetitive nature is counterbalanced by the artist’s peripatetic global wanderings and exceedingly irregular hours (in 1973 alone he sent postcards from twenty-eight cities). Moreover, Kawara’s postcards do not record his waking up but his “getting up,” with its ambiguous conflation of carnal and existential (as opposed to not getting up) implications.

With incomparable simplicity and elegance Kawara creates, with this series, a complex meditation on time, existence, and the relationship between art and life.

In a certain sense the phrase “I am still alive” can never be sent as it cannot be received by the addressee instantaneously…It is only valid at the very instant that it is being written, and in the very next second it no longer is a certainty. If the addressee receives the telegram a few hours or days later and reads it, he merely knows that the sender was alive at the very instant the telegram was sent. But when he is reading the telegram, he is totally uncertain if the content of the text is still relevant or if it is still valid. The difference, the small displacement between sending and receiving, is that particular unseizable glimpse of the presence of the artist. Likewise, it is a sentence of self-reassurance…”I am still alive.” The activity of telling oneself and the world “I am still alive.”

– On Kawara on his “I am still alive” correspondence


On Kawara, I Got Up

2 Comments Add yours

  1. earthstills says:

    Thanks for the introduction to Kawara!

    For me ‘I Got Up’ is the literal and visual expression of Frankl’s concept in ‘Logotherapy in a Nutshell’ – a quote from it:
    “The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him?
    No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’ “

    1. Sigrun says:

      “sufferings bravely suffered” – beautiful, thank you!

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