︎ Torey Erin

Artist and film maker
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
translated by Peng Wu


On Sunday May 3 I had a dream I was on a very tall ladder in a large white room with high ceilings, carefully installing On Kawara's “Today series” paintings, hundreds of them, in a grid. A row of rectangular windows were close to the ceiling and the paintings were below the windows. The light had a late morning haze to it. Perfect lines, all of them a deep cadmium reddish color with the stark, white dates. OCT.27.1967. FEB.04.1985. 30.DEC.1951 and so on. I slowly went down the very tall ladder. It was thin and narrow and I focused to keep my balance. When I reached the ground I picked up an On Kawara painting, and brought it up the ladder carefully, to set onto the silver nails in the wall. I leveled the painting, which seemed to be about 8x10 inches. And again, slowly went down the very tall ladder. I slid the ladder over to the right a little, and climbed back up with another date painting to hang on the next set of nails. The painting I had previously leveled suddenly tilted on the wall, the bottom left corner rising up. I went down the ladder, going a little faster than I had before, and shifted it back to the place that it was before. There was no sound in the room. All of the date paintings started to tilt, the grid disrupted, waving. I looked back at all of the labor. There was no sound in the room. They started to fall off the wall, bleeding. It was alarming, all of this precious art and labor, contorting, failing. I woke up. My heart ran races in my chest.

A beautiful panic dream. The last time I saw On Kawara work was in September at mia. One Thing was part of the exhibition “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965 - 1975”. A tryptic: the left read “ONE THING”, the center, “VIET-NAM”, and the right “1965”, relayed a message of the surrounding circumstances of the war. His painting style changed afterward, the surrounding circumstances left out, and he solely focused on the dates from then on - a solemn reflection of living and breathing another day.

The time before that was in 2015 at his retrospective, Silence at the Guggenheim. I was invited to New York with a friend for an art fair - she went to work all day at the fair and I walked around Manhattan. I went to the park and had my palm read by a fortune teller there; she told me in another life that I had hung myself, and that is why my mother had a difficult labor with me (she did not know, that in fact, my neck was wrapped in my umbilical cord during labor and my heart slowed. Nurses prepared my mother for a c-section. A cool doctor entered the hospital room and told everyone to calm down and wait, they watched as I untangled myself and then came into the world). I wanted to experience the inside of the museum and found myself at what seemed like a funeral procession. Visitors dressed in black, silently winding up the museum structure from date painting to date painting. I learned that Kawara would paint one date painting per day, in sans serif text meticulously executed with acrylic paint and no use of stencils. A compulsion. Some say it was a result of traumatic stress from living in Japan during and after the war. If he couldn’t finish a day’s painting by midnight, he destroyed it. He housed the finished date paintings in tailor made cardboard boxes, lined with the day's newspaper, usually the New York Times.

The dream wouldn’t leave my mind, the collapse was so vivid. I thought it could be a subconscious confrontation with the current events of the world. The collapse of the grid represented the disruption in nearly every aspect of daily life due to the pandemic. ‘Normal’ was no longer available to us, anxiety was heightened. In May I quarantined for weeks because I thought I had the virus. I had never experienced the level of fatigue before. My muscles felt like stones. I couldn’t stay awake either, and slept nearly 16 hours in one day. This was before available citywide testing, so I did a telehealth check up, logging into my account and submitting my symptoms to ‘Lindsay’. I was in the ‘could be the flu or corona virus’ category, because I did not have respiratory symptoms. With four days of rest my strength came back. Months later, when antibodies tests were available, I tested in person at a clinic one block from my house. A man named Randy took my blood. Randy was broad shouldered with facial hair and large forearms. He wore a face shield, no mask. Randy used his breath, not his voice, to walk me through every step he would take before and after putting the needle inside of my vein. The whisper made me feel taken care of in a way I had never felt at the doctor. I went home and wrote Randy a very positive online review about his breathiness and gentle nature. It was probably unnecessary information for the clinic, but at that point person-to-person interactions were limited and non-intimate. We were all dancing spatially in public now, no brushing past or hello hugs to friends, all gaze - no smile, muffled voices behind paper masks. A whisper felt like deep cherished care.

Maybe the dream is a reflection of my own repetitive days blurring together. When the pandemic reached the US, my mornings began with tangerine tea, scrolling the coronavirus reports and maps, and running three miles around my neighborhood. I consistently ran past a woman with short blonde hair, mid-fifties, briskly walking each day. We waved at each other. She wore a black mask and sunglasses. In the summer she started to wear a baseball cap with a rearview mirror on it so she could see if someone was coming up behind her. This surprised me but I imagined she may have a preexisting condition or lives with a parent. In August she suddenly had a ponytail coming out of the cap with the rearview mirror. This also surprised me and now I even wonder if it is the same woman. Stepping on the same wheat shadows on the concrete, past the archery targets, under the train tracks, and up the hill of sumac. At first I ran to relieve anxiety and move my body a bit before sitting at home working on my computer. Running became something to put on my calendar that I felt I could actually control. My distance increased to six miles, then nine, thirteen. Exhaling felt like the only truth.

The dream could represent the complicated visual obituary of the pandemic: seeing the interactive maps on the screen grow from orange to red day after day as the death toll rises. Bodies. Numbers. Days. I have read that when faced with a massive crisis, humans go through psychic numbness, meaning that as the number of victims in a tragedy increases, our empathy reliably decreases. Our brains can’t fathom the millions of people dead - massive crisis becomes abstract thought. The numbness of numbers. I thought about On Kawara’s paintings in relation to this as a recording of his very existence through numbers and language anonymity. Art historians have written about the paintings as conceptual and stripped of emotion, a sort of mechanomorphic way of being, or, machine quality projected onto the human. (Kawara could have been projecting the ever increasing mechanomorphism we see today in the ways in our ever present merge with technology). But beyond the number is the human being, steadily hand lettering the painting, living for the day. They appeared as a chronological artifact, but were actually a sign of Kawara’s life, the country he was in, the box he handmade, the newspaper he read. They all held a secret memory - something invisible. The virus has an invisibility too - captivating, unseen, unsure. We don’t know if it is here or there or if we even have it when we have it. We enter an abstract frame of mind to comprehend it. I imagine it on the surface of my mail, the door handle, the sunbutter. I used to clean every grocery item with bleach wipes. But if I am truly honest it was more about the performance of cleaning than it really was about eliminating the virus from the item. If I had been certain it was on the jar of sunbutter I would have treated it like toxic waste with tongs and a full suit on. The cleaning was to exit the feedback loop of my mind questioning whether or not the item was a potential infector.

Yet, some people don’t even believe the virus is anywhere at all; so the dream could be about the fragmentation of our reality. Kawara’s paintings represent time itself as consciousness. But somehow they are only partial truths as documents of linear time: each date, painted in a 24 hour time frame. Month, day, year. The archive of the arrow of time, the form of reality that the larger majority of human life agrees upon. The name COVID-19 is a time capsule: many think that there is a before, during, and after COVID-19 in some kind of hopeful linearity. Western culture favors the extractive, destructive, ‘progressive’, linear systems. (It is likely that the COVID-19 the virus came from our complete disregard for natural cycles in the environment). So this linear system is perhaps failing, because it does not recognize that we revolve and radiate, and that our impact always affects and relates to something else in a circular way. Circular time, which is nature's motivation, is not an adopted concept of western culture because it does not appear progressive. I thought of the cyclical while I was filming a cicada on the side of my house emerging from its nymph exoskeleton. It was pulsating, uncurling slowly. A chime of cicadas would sweep loudly as it moved, luring it out. Its wings grew,

inflating with fluid. Cicadas sing and lay eggs in a tree. The eggs hatch and then they fall to the ground and suck onto a root of a tree for its sap nutrients and grow underground for 2-17 years. They need bacteria to make amino acids, so they form a relationship with fungus to survive. They emerge from the earth, shed their exoskeleton, mate, lay eggs, and die. The circle starts all over again - a magical relationship of beings. Perhaps we have found ourselves emerging from the nymph-like stage pulsing toward a new time. And the dream is perhaps about the disruption of our understanding of time. The teleological mistake we have made. In the US we subscribe to the mental concept of linear time which in a way ignores bodies (heartbeat, respiration, circadian rhythms, sleepinging/waking) and ecosystems in favor of a time that is successive: time-is-labor-is-money. I thought of Kawara’s unfinished day paintings. I imagine him trying to outpaint the clock from wherever he was, the restraint of the imaginary line of midnight. The clock moves its hand just before the last few brushstrokes and he bends his neck, pauses. Maybe he even sets a timer. In disappointment, he rips the painting. Or burns it. Or Kawara opens the window and gently throws it into the garbage behind his apartment, it spins down, the partial date blurs. And this garbage is full of these failed date paintings and eggshells and tissue. Or maybe he buried them all, in a tailor made box, complete with a newspaper and the earth and the arthropods use it for sustenance. These details are unknown. What we do know is that for Kawara, time was an emotional and imaginary relationship. Because that is what time seems to be. We give it meaning to try to understand the complexity of the system as a whole. So it is also just an appearance. Just like a painting. Just like a dream.

︎ 托莉•艾琳

艺术家 电影人
明尼阿波利斯,明尼苏达 美国


5月3日,星期日,我做了一个梦,当时我站在一个有着高大天花板的白色大房间里极高的梯子上,小心翼翼地将Kawara的“ Today系列”画作安装在网格中。一排矩形窗户靠近天花板,而画作则位于窗户下方。晨雾笼罩着它。完美的线条,带有深镉红的颜色和鲜明的白色日期: 1967年10月27日。 1985年2月4日。 1951年12月30日,依此类推。我慢慢地走下高高的阶梯。它又窄又窄,我集中精力保持平衡。当我到达地面时,我拿起一幅On Kawara画作,小心地将它抬上梯子,放到墙上的银色钉子上。我调平了这幅画,大约是8x10英寸。再一次,慢慢地走下高高的阶梯。我将梯子向右滑了一点,然后再爬上另一幅日期画,挂在下一组钉子上。我以前调平过的画突然在墙上倾斜,左下角向上翘起。我比以前快的走下梯子,然后又将它移回了以前的位置。房间里突然没有声音。所有的画开始倾斜,网格乱套了,胡乱摇动着。我回头看了所有的工作。房间里寂静无声。他们开始从墙上掉下来,流着血。令人震惊的是,所有这些宝贵的艺术和劳动,都在扭曲,失败了。我醒了。我的心在胸口猛烈跳动。

一个惊恐而美丽的梦。 我上次看到On Kawara的作品是在9月的Mia美术馆。 《一件事》这件作品是《艺术家的回应:1965年至1975年的美国艺术与越战》展览的一部分。 这是一副三联画:左边写着“一件东西”,中间写着“ VIET-NAM”,右边写着“ 1965”,传达了当时战争状态下的社会环境。 自从这件作品以后,他的绘画风格发生了变化,周围的环境被排除在外,他只关注从那时起的一个个日期-庄严的表达了艺术家又呼吸,存活了一天。

在这个展览之前是2015年他的回顾展《古根海姆的寂静》。我和一个朋友应邀去纽约参加一次艺术博览会-她整天都在博览会上工作,而我则在曼哈顿漫步。我去了公园,找那里的算命先生看了手相。她告诉,在我的前世我上吊自杀了,这就是为什么我母亲生我的时候很不顺利(她不知道,事实上,我的脖子在分娩过程中被脐带缠住了,我的心率都开始变慢了。)护士已经开始准备让妈妈剖腹产了。这时一个很厉害的医生进入病房,告诉大家冷静下来在等等,慢慢的我自己解开脐带的缠绕自己走进这个世界。我想进博物馆里面参观一下,忽然发现里面正在发生一场好像葬礼的游行。参观者都穿着黑色衣服,沿着博物馆的展厅从一幅On Kawara的日期画到另一幅日期画。我了解到,Kawara每天会用这种无衬线字体(用丙烯酸涂料并没有使用模版)精心绘制一幅日期画。有人说艺术家这种强迫症式的行为是战争留给生活在当时日本的人们的精神创伤。如果他不能在午夜之前完成一天的绘画,就将其销毁。他将完成的日期绘画放在量身定制的纸板箱中,该纸板箱同时也保存着当天的报纸(通常是《纽约时报》)。

这个梦久久的在我脑中游荡,这个梦中世界的崩溃依旧如此鲜明。我觉得可能是因为梦境与世界正在发生的事情在潜意识里的碰撞。绘画对其网格的崩溃代表了新冠病毒对日常生活中几乎各个层面的破坏。我们从此失去了所谓的“正常世界”,感到无比焦虑。 5月,我自我隔离了几个星期,因为我觉得自己感染了病毒。我以前从未经历过那种程度的肢体疲劳感。我的肌肉简直像石头一样。我也无法保持清醒状态,一天睡了将近16个小时。这是在全市范围内可以进行核酸测试之前,因此我只能进行远程的医疗咨询,登录了我的帐户并将症状提交给一个叫“Lindsay”的工作人员。我属于“可能是流感或冠状病毒”的类别,因为我没有呼吸道症状。经过四天的休息,我的体力恢复了。几个月后,当抗体测试可用时,我在离我家一街区的一家诊所亲自进行了测试。一个叫兰迪的人把我的鲜血带走了。兰迪有着宽阔的肩膀,旺盛的胡子,粗壮的前臂。他戴着面罩,没戴口罩。兰迪用简直使用呼吸一般的耳语而不是嗓音来引导我完成将针插入我的静脉的步骤。这种低语使我感到以从未见过的方式得到照料。我回到家给兰迪写了一篇关于他的呼吸和温柔性格的非常正面的在线评论。对于诊所来说,这可能是不必要的信息,但是此时,人与人之间的互动那么的局限而冷冰冰。我们曾经在公共空间有各种各样充满人情味的交流,但现在即不能拥抱也不能微笑,只留下口罩之下低沉的嗓音。所以兰迪的轻柔的耳语感觉让人无比珍视。

也许这个梦是我自己日复一日重复的生活混淆在一起的反映。新冠大流行到达美国后,我的早晨从橘茶开始,查看冠状病毒新闻和分布地图,并在我周围四英里范围内跑步运动。我一直遇到一个女人,她有一头金色的短发,五十多岁,每天快步走。我们互相挥手。她戴着黑色的口罩和太阳镜。夏天以后,她开始戴着戴有后视镜的棒球帽,这样她就可以看到是否有人在她身后。这让我感到惊讶,但我以为她可能本身有慢性病或与父母同住。 8月份,她突然从有后视镜的帽子后面露出了一个马尾辫。这也让我感到惊讶,现在我什至怀疑它是否是同一个女人。踩在混凝土上相同的阴影上,经过射箭目标,在火车铁轨下,然后在漆树山上。起初,我坐在远程居家工作之前,为了缓解焦虑和移动了身体。跑步成为我真正可以控制的事情。我跑步的距离增加到六英里,然后是九英里,然后十三英里。呼吸感觉像是唯一的真实存在。

这个梦境又像是新冠大流行的视觉布告牌:随着死亡人数的增加,看到屏幕上的互动地图日渐从橙色变成红色。身体。数字。日期。我读到文章说在面对巨大的危机时,人类会陷入心理麻木,这意味着随着悲剧中受害者的人数增加,我们的同理心确实会稳定的减少。我们的大脑无法理解数百万人的死亡-大规模的危机变成了很抽象的观念。对于数字的麻木。我想到On Kawara的绘画与此有关,艺术家通过抽象的数字和文字匿名性的记录了自己在战争中的存在。艺术史学家的评论文章曾将这些画作视为剥离了情感的观念艺术,一种机械变形的存在方式,或者是投射到人类身上的冰冷机械特征。 (Kawara也可能是预测今天的我们与技术融合的现实-不断增加的机械性)。但是画作中数字的冰冷表象背后是艺术家平稳宁静的日复一日的手绘过程。它们看上去像是按年代顺序排列的制品,但实际上是Kawara的生活,他所在的国家,他手工制作的盒子以及他读过的报纸的象征。他们都拥有一个秘密的记忆,这些都是隐秘看不见的。该病毒也具有隐秘性-令人着迷,看不见,不确定。我们不知道它到底在不在这里,或者我们染病的时候也不确定(作者指在本文写作的疫情早期)。我们只好在一个抽象的思维框架里来理解它。我想像它会出现在我邮件的表面,门把手和Sunbutter花生酱瓶子上。我曾经用漂白剂擦拭每件超市买回来的物品。但是,老实讲这个清洁的行为简直是一种行为表演。因为如果花生酱瓶子上真有病毒,我会用钳子和全套的防护服把它当作有毒的东西对待。清洁的行为本身其实是为了停止我脑子里不断循环的对病毒的不确定性和疑虑。