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“an action that initiates the memory of a day”

“an action that initiates the memory of a day” homi k. bhabha

In “On Kawara” (2002, Phaidon) writers, artists, curators, professors and others contribute anecdotes about their experience interacting with On Kawara, or, in some cases, not interacting, yet, formulating a sense of On. For Homi K. Bhabha, a professor of Literature at Harvard University, who had never met the artist, On was “a kind of place that one has to occupy, a movement to follow, a problem with which to be preoccupied” (pg 16). Was On preoccupied with the passing of time, with leaving a trace of his existence, of maintaining a superficial connection with a vast network of people, of jolting the receiver of his postcards into a pause, a reflection, a realization of someone existing in another part of the world, still alive? With each postcard, each date painting, each newspaper clipping, each ledger, each calendar, of On’s, there is a minimalist yet forceful statement that says ‘I am here, I exist, I am existing, I existed.’ Perhaps, ephemerality, in the sense of fleeting emotions, is part of On Kawara’s work. What we feel as the receiver of a postcard makes up the work, is part of the work, completes the work. The power of the postcards is in that they are meant to be received. Their sending, and their arrival, “initiates the memory of a day” as Homi Bhabha says, or perhaps, punctuates a moment in a day for the receiver. A moment that with time will become a distant memory, and the object that remains—the postcard—takes on a new meaning…after all, the ephemeral is evanescent.

  • Lenny

    Very interesting and makes me want to look deeper into On Kawara. Thank you.

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