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Minor Canon

On Kawara I am still alive mug

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On Kawara (1932 – 2014) was a Japanese conceptual artist who lived in New York City from 1965 until his death. His art typically involves marking time through de-aestheticized rituals and durational, performative works that collapse distinctions between art and labour—a primary example of the administrative or bureaucratic tendencies common to first-generation conceptualism.

Kawara's long series of "Date paintings" (the Today series) consist entirely of the date on which the painting was executed in simple white lettering set against a solid background. The date is always documented in the language and grammatical conventions of the country in which the painting is executed.

The series I Am Still Alive began with three telegrams that On Kawara sent in 1969. They read, in succession: I AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE DON’T WORRY; I AM NOT GOING TO COMMIT SUICIDE WORRY; and I AM GOING TO SLEEP FORGET IT. These telegrams, each sent three days apart, get as close to “an expression of interiority—and a narrative arc—as Kawara will ever get.” Just over a month later, Kawara sent another telegram to someone else, which reads, I AM STILL ALIVE. He sent nearly nine hundred telegrams of this kind to dozens of friends and acquaintances for more than three decades.

These telegrams differ from the artist’s earlier series in several ways. Most importantly, Kawara did not make—or even touch—these objects. Sending a telegram was a largely impersonal act involving clerks at telegraph offices. For this reason, Kawara had to relinquish strict aesthetic control. Other differences concern the format of the telegram, which was determined by the place it was received (not the place from which it was sent), and its time stamp, which reflects the time of delivery (not when it was sent). Also, unlike series such as I Went and I Got Up, Kawara did not send a telegram each day."

Whether you're drinking your morning coffee, evening tea, or something in between, what better way to celebrate your continuing existence than with this telegram that On Kawara sent to Sol Lewitt in 1970. Are you drinking from this mug? Congratulations! You are still alive.

• Ceramic
• 11 oz mug dimensions: 3.85″ (9.8 cm) in height, 3.35″ (8.5 cm) in diameter
• 15 oz mug dimensions: 4.7″ (12 cm) in height, 3.35″ (8.5 cm) in diameter
• Dishwasher and microwave safe
• Blank product sourced from China