On Kawara’s One Million Years is an ongoing epic work conceived by the artist in 1969, documenting the passage of chronological time. This 20-volume work is a typewritten record of one million years – Past and Future. Biblical in scale, each volume contains 2,068 pages. Past is dedicated to “all those who have lived and died” and Future is “for the last one”.
This exhibition was a unique opportunity for you to read from the work, and participate in the extraordinary project to complete a public reading of the entire One Million Years. This is only the second time live readings have taken place in the UK.
The first reading of One Million Years took place in 1993 at Dia Center for the Arts in New York. Since then live readings have been performed across the world, with a man and a woman alternating the reading of Past and Future dates together. Each new reading continues in numerical order from the previous session, until all the years are read. Watch a video of participants reading at David Zwirner Gallery, New York in 2009 here.
For the exhibition at BALTIC we recruited men and women to read in 90-minute slots together. Each day, four time slots were available, for the duration of the two-month exhibition. You could participate in one session, or even come back regularly to continue reading. If you wanted to read with a friend of the opposite gender, you could book slots together. For AV Festival 12 the readings of AD ran from 83701AD to 204780AD and the readings of BC ran from 929276BC to 816999BC.
One Million Years enables us to grasp time itself in the physical act of reading the dates aloud. It powerfully condenses our entire human history to only a few pages, and an average human life to a few lines.
“I read happily, without thought, without time or worry. I think about how art has long sought to vanquish time, stretch it, crawl inside it. In One Million Years, Kawara allows us to muse about duration and life. The weeks pass, life goes on, but I keep returning to watch and read.” Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine.
For over four decades, On Kawara has created paintings, drawings, books, and recordings that examine chronological time and its function as a measure of human existence. The artist began making his now signature date paintings (known as the Today series) on January 4, 1966 in New York City, and continues to make them in different parts of the world. His practice is characterized by its meditative approach to concepts of time, space, and consciousness.
Kawara’s work has been included in numerous conceptual art surveys from the seminal Information show at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1970 to 1965-1975: Reconsidering the Object of Art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 1995-96. The artist’s work has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide, including the Dallas Museum of Art in 2008. On Kawara: Consciousness. Meditation. Watcher on the Hills was a major solo exhibition, which traveled to a dozen international venues between 2002 and 2006, including the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Le Consortium, Dijon; Kunstverein Braunschweig; Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore; and The Power Plant, Toronto.
Work by the artist is represented in major museum collections internationally, including the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Kunstmuseum Basel; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota City, Japan.
Co-curated by AV Festival 12 and BALTIC. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York.
Preview: Fri 2 March 2012, 9am-3pm
Thu 1 March – Sun 29 April 2012
South Shore Road
Gateshead NE8 3BA