On Kawara tweets: I AM STILL ALIVE

As you read this, there's a good chance that On Kawara is in the midst of painting today's date: Aug. 28, 2013. Just about every day since since January 4, 1966, he's done so -- painted the date, which usually takes all day, on a small canvas, rendering the month in the language of the country this frequent traveler happens to be in -- as a meditative act and an ongoing work of conceptual art. The rules: he must complete each "date painting" on the day he started it, and if he fails, he must destroy it. Fascinated by time, On Kawara also has been known to send telegraphs and postcards to friends with the reassuring words, "I am still alive."

"He is like one of those peculiar, driven characters in a Paul Auster story, except On Kawara deserves a better fate than to be memorialised in Auster's overrated fiction," wrote Adrian Searle in 2002. "On Kawara creates his own memorial every day, in the eloquent silences of his works. He exists, and his art is the proof of it."

Via @museumnerd, we learn that On Kawara has been using Twitter since January 2009 to reiterate his existence. Just about every day he tweets "I AM STILL ALIVE  #art" (occasionally he breaks form, like he did on April 29, 2009, when he tweeted, "i might die soon ..."). It's a surprising medium, yet a perfect one for the artist. On one hand, the evidence of the artist's hand is missing, his painstaking day-long painting replaced by a few keystrokes on a computer (maybe even aided by cut-and-paste commands and Twitter's tweet-scheduling function). But on the other, it's an apt medium for those obsessed with time, as On Kawara is: beneath each tweet is its timestamp--both day and date--offering more evidence of a moment of living catalogued.

Update 8.28.13: After all that typing, turns out I've been had. Sort of. The On Kawara Twitter account is the work of Pall Thayer, who way back in 2009 revealed this, which is pretty awesome:
On Kawara on twitter is a Perl script that gets automatically run once a day on a server in a cabinet in my living room. I haven't done anything to publicize his activities on twitter. All he does is announce, "I AM STILL ALIVE" once a day. He doesn't follow anyone. Yet, somehow, it seeped out into the twitter community. The "Perl Net::Twitter" client name should be a dead give away.

The interesting thing about this (and my original reason for launching it) is that it blatantly negates the whole idea behind On Kawara's "I AM STILL ALIVE" messages. Whereas those did indeed confirm that he was still alive, this doesn't. It's an automated process that he doesn't even control. Were he to die, he would continue to announce "I AM STILL ALIVE", everday, on twitter. So it really does two things; by falsely confirming that he is alive, it casts doubt on the issue but it also keeps the notion of him actively announcing that he is alive, alive.

So what may sound like a simple prank is actually pretty complex and gets more complex the more you think about it.
Thanks, Yuki Okumura, for pointint out.

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