On Kawara’s One Million Years is an ongoing epic work conceived by the artist in 1969, documenting the passage of chronological time. This 20-volume work is a typewritten record of one million years – Past and Future. Biblical in scale, each volume contains 2,068 pages. Past is dedicated to “all those who have lived and died” and Future is “for the last one”. One Million Years enables us to grasp time itself in the physical act of reading the dates aloud. It powerfully condenses our entire human history to only a few pages, and an average human life to a few lines. (via)
“Much of Letinsky’s work alludes to human presence, without including any actual figures. For example, in the Morning and Melancholia (c. 1997-2001), and the I Did Not Remember I Had Forgotten (c. 2002-2004) series, Letinsky seems to document the aftermath of a sumptuous gathering or dinner party. Faded flower petals intermingle with empty glasses and crumbs of food on partially cleared tables, often covered with a white linen that bears the mark of spilled wine.
As alluded in the title Morning and Melancholia these scenes are often filled with a fresh, clear light, as though one is viewing from the perspective of the morning after, what the host failed to clean up the evening before. However, the title of the series itself is a reference to an essay by Freud, Mourning and Melancholia, which discusses the human response to loss.
The title I Did Not Remember I Had Forgotten also has a literary source; it refers to a line by St. Augustine, commenting on memory, ‘One would never say I did not remember I had forgotten.’ Letinsky responded:
‘I was thinking, No, that’s not right! Actually, I felt I had just come to this moment where I did not remember that I had forgotten, and it had to do with music. I’d gone for three years without listening to music. I would drive in the car and I would want silence, or I would listen to talk shows. Then for some reason I began listening to the radio, and some of the CDs I had around, and it was almost like drinking water after being really thirsty. I took such pleasure in it. Somehow, I did not remember that I’d forgotten to turn on the music.’”