OCT. 31, 1978

I was forced to enroll in an internet class to keep my financial aid while I work an internship in Chicago that is the last requirement of my degree. The class has ridiculous assignments. This one was to write a story or narrative about a piece of artwork we had previously described. Here is what I rattled off,  A DEAR DIARY from On Kawara on OCT.31,1978. Why am I still in school? It is after "the jump" but I wouldn't bother if I were you.

October 31st


Another date painting today. Another day today. Another day, another date. And that is my day – a date. A date that just denotes a day. An unit of measure, a hypothetical stamp, an agreed upon idea: 24 hours. (An hour, of course, is another stamp, another imposition.) The greater part of these last 24 hours was spent painting 24 hours. And now those 24 hours are gone, as ephemeral as an unheard whisper, but the painting will remain for years, for decades. In 2010 or whenever, it will still be seen. Will it be a simplistic gesture, a date on a canvas, nothing more? Or will it contain the essence of the moment? Will it be a portrait of Jimmy Carter, of Iran, of an oil crisis, of disillusion? Will it pique personal associations, a youthful romance, the halcyon days of childhood trick or treating? And if they are yet to be born, will they imagine where their parents were on that day? More importantly, will they understand the fact that I existed? That a painter painted in 1978? That things have happened before them? That things will happen far after them? That “time” is just the taxonomy of existence? That for all of its supposed concrete reality, the only way to paint time, to paint existence, to speak of a “day” is to use a contrivance? A remnant of the Roman empire, colonizing our very conception of life; cutting it up, dissecting it into serviceable parts – I will meet you at 12, I will go to work at 5, I will die at 10. Fractionalizing a never-ending stream of perception.

  Perhaps this painting will bring out none of these thoughts – I am foolish to imagine it would. Perhaps, perhaps I should paint “eal paintings… paintings for people in museums. Paintings of Jesus. Paintings of naked women. Paintings of fruit. Too think that a date could hold someone's interest, one day, just another day – how could you care? It's the same as every painting I make, just digits switched out, colors swapped in. And yet, I cannot deny that each one demands a different response. October 31st, 1978 is not April 2nd, 1967 is not June 5th, 1973. That means something. That means everything. That is “history.” It's all of existence, it is all reducible to a date: D-DAY, Black Tuesday, May Day. And this will serve as a monument for this day. This day I painted. This day, an autumn day, with all that means, specific and particular and vague and quotidian. The wind. The coffee. The moonlight in the studio. Never again. And always. Days will be like it. Lives will be like mine. Paintings may even mimic it. Everything. The same. Forever. And then it’s gone.
    - On Kawara, 10/31/78

Oct. 31st, 1978 is a proof of life. It is the “I AM” that an artist, every artist, continually produces in the hopes that enough I AMS will equal a fondly remembered I WAS. So Oct.31st, 1978 is a memorial – to a day, an era, an artist, a country, an idea of art. Just like, say “The Mona Lisa” is, but stripped of all the other excuses, all the feverish explanations artists have for doing their (sub specie aeternitatis) meaningless endeavors.

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