The internet makes a real mess of time.
Download this pattern as a desktop here.
Social media streams aside, the atemporality of information on the internet means that it becomes immaterial when something was written: all that matters is when an individual user finds it and processes it.
In fact, when developing this site, we debated hotly whether to actually date these Primers; does it matter when they were written?
And the answer, of course, is no. Who knows who read will this, and when? Before a viewer knows about it, it does not exist, and never has. And once a viewer sees this, it is as if it has always existed, created into being only by individual recognition.
We have, through our technology, expired expiration.
The Japanese conceptual artist, On Kawara, who was born in 1933, was hip to this mind-bending idea far before most of us.
He settled in New York City in the mid-1960s, and would go on to become an integral part of the burgeoning conceptual art scene there, with contemporaries Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner.
But while the work of those other artists has arguably lost some relevance with time, there is something about Kawara’s work that feels exceptionally apt to our age.
He began his first American and probably most famous series on January 4, 1966, the day he made the first of his “Date” paintings – it is a small, royal blue canvas, on which is painted in delicate stroke just the date, in a self-styled typeface that looks like something close to a Futura, but isn’t.
He has made thousands of these paintings, each with a single date in the middle.
In the 70s, they became slightly more garish.
In the 80s, the typeface widened slightly. And yet, still, each was a marker for a single day.
Kawara was an extraordinarily private man, even more so as he got older, and eventually refused even to attend his own openings. He reportedly found it pointless – the art wasn’t about him at all.
The perception was a stark one – he started to pass beyond being a physical human and became a living metronome, a ticking, tocking marker of the passage of time
As Kawara aged and the atemporality of the internet finally caught up with him, a Twitter account tribute to Kawara became a pithy mediation on the man.
It is just a string of the
over, and over,
and over again.
One could argue that’s pretty much what the use of social media amounts to – a blinking beacon on a lifeboat.
On July 15, 2014, Kawara died at the age of 81. As his gallery noted, he reached 29,771 days.