December 24, 1932-June 27, 2014
“I am still living”
A simple message. One sent regularly via telegram to family and friends from Kawara. Life has always kowtowed to the hustle and bustle of social obligations, and yet, Kawara flaunted these expectations. Post cards bearing a time stamp reflecting the hour he woke up that day. Telegrams confirming he is still alive, somewhere. Nothing more. A life well traveled, but not shared, even after his death. Kawara was a hermit artist, traveling the world and documenting his days in paint. He took upon himself the herculean task of creating a single painting everyday. If he could not finish the painting prior to midnight, it was destroyed. This is the type of project that the typical artist can only dream of.
We mere mortals carry the weights society chains to us. Visiting family and friends, attending work, cooking and cleaning, amassing material possessions, all these things weigh us down. Kawara somehow reached an artistic enlightenment. He freed himself from these bonds in the ultimate journey of art and expression. However, at what cost? We don’t know what social interactions he had while traveling. Only lists of people he met, maps of walks and cab rides, and other staunch statistical recordings. He declined interviews, and destroyed much of his early works. The data left behind leave the glaring question “Who was this man?” The question we all spend our lives trying to answer, trying to unravel who we are, and ultimately leave our mark. And yet, Kawara seems to flaunt this human struggle and live purely for each and every “today,” and nothing more.
While we can agree, few persons would be so bold to take on an extreme lifestyle like Kawara’s. But much can be learned from his simple projects. Don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of “today.” Take time to think simply and take stock of what is set before you. Appreciate each day that you wake up and proclaim “I am still living.” Each day we live, we are succeeding. And each day presents new projects to tackle. The current culture of social media and over-sharing can certainly take a page from Kawara’s book (or in his case, postcard) and allow for mystery. Keep secrets. Decline questions. When you leave every detail bare, what is there left to ask? Why would we give further thought? Focus on what matters to you, even if it seems mundane. Keep taking stock in each day that you are in fact “still living.”