I AM STILL ALIVE.
One of his most well known series of works, On Kawara sent a series of telegrams to his friends bearing the message “I AM STILL ALIVE” (1968 – 1979). I saw this at the MoMA a few days ago and was really interested in this simple and straight forward mode of communication.
Other series of works include the I Went and I Met series of postcards sent to his friends detailing aspects of his life.
This made me connect my own personal fascination with air mail and postcards with my dad’s all time favorite hobby of philately. Perhaps, I did inherit his love of history and documentation but in a slightly different way. For Semyon, it’s more of the existence of a transit and communication system that also contains a personal story, leaving the collector or viewer of a rare envelope with a postage address and stamp to wonder what the message was. For me, and perhaps for On Kawara, it is more about the story, the message that is contained on the postcard or in the letter, and the documentation of that point in time for the sender and receiver. Maybe it’s all the same thing, after all, but i do appreciate the brevity of On Kawara’s telegrams. If I were to receive such a telegram, I think it would make me happy knowing that my friend is 1) alive, 2) i am alive, and 3) this is on paper and this paper has traveled over oceans and mountains.