Thomas Arthur Schaefer

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Great Eventual Nothing Of My Mondays Journey

I should have probably stated this for the record before... like weeks ago... but I have no internet access at this time. The only access I have is at work and when I head over to other people houses. So, while I still write entries for my blog every day... (usually in the program Stickey Brain - where I save them to post later)... I'm currently unable to just hop onto the internet and post things at any given time like I have throughout this first year of the blog. As the year comes to a close and this experiment reaches it's first year on December 31st, I'll have to make another decision for the following year — what will be the daily ritual. In 2004 it was the Fluoride Paintings — 2005 Suppositions, Slants & Suspicions — 2006... what will I do.
The idea of a daily ritual comes straight from my study and love of the work by On Kawara. Beside the simple fact that I personally find enjoyment in documenting certain aspects of my daily life, I find the questions that are raised in On's daily work run very close to mine.

Time, as registered in its familiar increments of days, years, centuries, and eons, has preoccupied On since the mid-1960s, when he began his magnum opus, the Today Series. Each of the Date Paintings that constitute this ongoing work is a monochrome field on which is inscribed the date of the day on which the individual painting is executed, in the language and according to the calendrical conventions of the country in which Kawara is present when he begins it. If he does not complete it by midnight he destroys it. Some days he makes more than one; very occasionally, a third is added to that second before the midnight deadline strikes. Most days he makes none.
Certain sets of limitations govern this series, as they do Kawara's other bodies of work. Every painting in the Today Series conforms to one of eight predetermined sizes, all horizontal in orientation, ranging from eight by ten inches to sixty-one by eighty-nine inches. And for every painting the artist mixes the color afresh, so that the chroma of each is unique. Colors and tonalities in the brown-gray and blue-black areas of the spectrum have become prevalent in recent years; earlier, cerulean blues and clear reds were more frequently employed. Four or five coats of acrylic are evenly applied to the surface of the canvas, on the sides as well as the frontal plane, and each layer is sanded down before the next is added, creating a dense matte surface. The whole is self-evidently an object, a three-dimensional entity. Letters, numbers, and punctuation marks are then meticulously built up across the center of the monochrome field. Eschewing stencils in favor of hand-drawn characters, Kawara skillfully renders the script, initially an elongated version of Gill Sans, later a quintessentially modernist Futura. Whatever slight variations and adjustments in the letters may be discerned over the years, they are no more significant than the often minute differences in hue. Nor is the choice of color more expressive or connotative than the measurements that determine the size of an individual work.
Each painting is stored in its own handmade cardboard box, alongside a clipping from a newspaper published in the same city and on the same day that the artist made the painting. History as recorded in daily events, whether global, national, or local, is bound together with the residues of individual activity and memorialized under the rubric of the date. In addition to the title, determined by the day on which the work was executed, a subtitle may be appended. These vary widely from diaristic notes to impersonal records, as the following examples from January 1966 attest: "I thought about memory and sense," "Janine came to my studio," "I am painting this painting," "USA began to bomb North Vietnam again." In counterpoint to the dialectic between order and chance—that is, between the regularity and standardization imposed by calendrical and linguistic conventions and the arbitrarily determined strictures governing size and color — there is a modicum of subjectivity: in the subtle traces of manual execution, clear evidence is offered of the act of making. A constant traveler, Kawara has now created Date Paintings in more than 112 cities worldwide, in a project that will end only with his death.
It's the idea of a recorded history bound together with the residues of individuals activity that really fascinates me with On and I can relate to the idea of capturing the fleeting moments of life through some means other than a photograph. For On it's the 'Date Paintings', his 'I'm Still Alive' postcards and his 'I Went' and 'I Read' series of works. For me it's the same principles, but done with things that matter to me — 'Fluoride Series', 'Events & Artifacts', the 'Adds' and the blog. We record our own lives everyday... most of us don't realize that we do it, but every time you snap that picture, send an email, write a note, or save that concert stub you are preserving a piece of history — be it an individualized piece, it is still an important artifact. The bits and pieces of pottery and coins that archaeologists unearth today will be equal to an unearthed plastic ring you got out of a vending machine when you were 7. These kinds of things may seem unimportant and trivial to most, but in the future they will be precious gems... and to some of us the things we keep are already just that.

So for next year, I'm going to continue the blog and add something new to my everyday tasks. Something that I can collect or record... something meaningful to me and possibly to others in the future — but in the end the things one does as an artist are strictly personal based. One shouldn't expect others to understand or appreciate the things you create. If that is the mission behind you're work then in my opinion you cease to be an artist — you become a kind of used-car dealer or worse, a product.

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