Researching On Kawara

On Kawara (1932-2014) was a Japanese conceptual artist who lived in New York City from 1965.

“Kawara belonged to a broadly international generation of Conceptual artists that began to emerge in the mid-1960s, stripping art of personal emotion, reducing it to nearly pure information or idea and greatly playing down the art object. Along with Lawrence Weiner, Joseph Kosuth, Hanne Darboven and others, Kawara gave special prominence to language.” (source: wikipedia)

I don’t want to strip art of personal emotion, quite the contrary, intensity of emotion is imporant to me. But like the conceptual artists mentioned above, in my current project, I am presenting information and I am playing down the art object. I am interested in the ephemerality of news headlines. Text does appear often in my work.

I am interested in Kawara’s work because of his use of repetition and engagement in routine/ritual and process-oriented projects that span long periods of time. Although his work is minimalist, the postcard series feel personal and impersonal at the same time.

source: The I GOT UP SERIES lasted 11 years and was stopped because his stamping materials were stolen.

I am most drawn to On Kawara’s postcard series:

“… include[s] the I Went and I Met series of postcards sent to his friends detailing aspects of his life, and a series of telegrams sent to various people bearing the message “I AM STILL ALIVE”. Between 1968 and 1979, On Kawara created his information series, I Got Up, in which he sent two picture postcards from his location on that morning. All of the 1,500 cards list the artist’s time of getting up, the date, the place of residence and the name and address of the receiver another series of postcards, I Got Up At, rubber-stamped with the time he got up that morning. 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).” (source: wikipedia)

More on On Kawara on

Studio project proposal submitted for Fall 2020

Since Covid-19 was declared a public health emergency in BC on March 17, I have been collecting news headlines. Collecting has involved hand recording in my sketchbook Covid-related news headlines recommended by my browser. I also kept track of other types of data, e.g. hashtags, statistics, and vocabulary or sentences that have become common use.

While at first I was thinking of making a quilt—an object of comfort—with selected headlines, I am now focused on showing the headlines in their entirety in handwritten format, and through this process I want to draw attention to the act of hand recording as a daily practice and to reflect on what it means to engage in this act.

I am currently re-recording the headlines (by hand) on long, scroll-like sheets of rice paper with the intention of reproducing the headlines from each month since March, and up to end of the year, on each sheet of paper. I am finding this act is slowing me down and allowing me to re-visit what the news focused on at the beginning of the pandemic. I am approaching this work as a process-oriented endeavour, perhaps exploring the embodied experience to see what emerges.

Display ideas/how to share the work: At the moment, it seems obvious that the scroll-like sheets could be displayed on the gallery walls. Having nine sheets would create a visual impact. The size of the writing draws the viewer in closer to be able to read. I am also exploring the idea of displaying all my research/data collection material on a table.

Research: I see the re-writing as research of embodied experience. I will also explore producing a book of new headlines for posterity, and producing a newspaper of new headlines. I will be looking at artists whose work engages with embodied experience and daily practice. One of the artists I am looking at so far is On Kawara.

Keywords I am working with: daily practice, repetition, uncertainty, being present, posterity, ephemerality, embodied experience, ceremony/closure (I am thinking of burning the scrolls when Covid is not an issue anymore—a performance/participatory component of the project), art/life merging

The materials/techniques/equipment needs are fairly basic at the moment: handwriting on rice paper scrolls, using bookbinding equipment in the printmaking studio, using the DOC for newspaper production.

I welcome any artist references you may have for my research phase. Please leave a comment here. Thank you!! Two were mentioned at the first ‘crit’ (not really a crit, more of a feedback session): Roman Opalka and Carolyn Wren, and I’ve looked at On Kawara.

I am starting to think of this work as a ‘collection.’

From quilts to scrolls

This is what I did Friday and Sunday for 5 hours total (with breaks): I wrote almost all the news headlines I had recorded in March. The studio was deserted on Sunday, so it was really quiet. I listened to the art history lecture–on modernism–from the course I’m auditing.

I asked myself how it felt to re-write these headlines in this way–on a large and long piece of paper…sitting on the floor, on a chair, going up a ladder. I felt it was more of an embodied experience than when I was writing them in my sketchbook. Definitely, a calmer experience. It was like processing, working through something.

Recognizing routine in my practice

So, I was all set on this quilt idea, but then, after talking with Birthe and Henry I realized I needed to spend more time with the material I’ve been collecting. Why did I start making a record of news headlines? What was I thinking/feeling that pushed me to start this routine which consisted of checking the news on my laptop and writing them out in my sketchbook. I reminded myself that I often work with routines:

  • March 2019 – March 2020: I went into my home studio and set with fabric, needle, and thread for 2 hours each day. I wasn’t always successful sticking with the schedule but that was the intention.
  • October 2019-March 2020: Every day I walked with my dog, I picked up a stick then took it to the studio and wrapped it in yarn. The wrapping would take 15 minutes – 1 hour. Sometimes, I wrapped more than one stick. I hung the sticks on my walls.
  • 2018: For a year, I recorded how many times I went to a yoga session, how many times I did yoga at home, how many times I meditated, how many days I worked at my job, how many times I went to a coffee shop. In 2019, I stitched my data.
  • there’s more, but you get the idea


I was thinking of creating an object of comfort

How do I work with the covid-19 news headlines I’ve been recording since March? I had this image in my head of transfering the headlines to a quilt…because we take the news with us to bed. Many of us look at a phone or ipad before bed and upon waking up…news, news, all the time, so even the space that should be comforting us is compromised.