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The work ‘One Million Years’ by the Japanese artist On Kawara, published in 1999 but based on a work of 1969, describes two million years. Part 1 ‘For Those Who Have Lived and Died’ comprises the years 998.031 B.C. up to and including 1969; Part 2 ‘For the Last One’ begins with 1993 and ends with 1.001.992. Each page counts 500 years. A human life occupies less than one fifth of a page. The historical period of the world as we know it amounts to a generous ten pages. Even the existence of homo sapiens, which appeared on earth 200,000 years ago, easily falls within one of the parts of this book, which represents a minute portion of the earth’s existence (4500 million years). Just as in Kawara’s ‘date paintings’ – paintings of the date on which they were made – this book compresses time into a palpable form. The work also exists in another entity, in which the numbers are read aloud. Readings of the book have taken place at Document XI in Kassel and Trafalgar Square in London. The work was also recited during the exhibition ‘Taking Place’ (during Temporary Stedelijk in 2010/2011). A continuous reading of all two million years listed in the pages of this book would take one hundred years to complete. In the various manifestations of this work, Kawara expands, contracts, solidifies and liquefies time.
c/o Pictoright, Amsterdam 2004



Artists' books

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15.1 x 11.6 x 9.1 x 4.4cm.


offset on India paper; two volumes in slipcase

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