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On Kawara in Dar Al-Kalima College, Bethlehem

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 03.10.2007:

Pure Consciousness

October 23-30, 2007

Ikon, in collaboration with ArtSchool Palestine, presents On Kawara’s Pure Consciousness, at Dar Al-Kalima College, Bethlehem, as part of the Second Riwaq Biennale. This ongoing series that consists of seven “date paintings” is being installed in kindergartens, as part of the furniture of classrooms for young children, and exhibited on walls that are often filled with teaching aids, especially for elementary spelling, numbers, and drawings. Simply coexisting with the pupils and teachers, the work is virtually inaccessible to anyone else.

The paintings were produced on seven consecutive days – the first seven days of 1997. They are a combination of two sizes, 8” x 10” and 10” x 13”, with stark-white text that is superimposed on a dark grey-green background, spelling out the days on which they were made. The simple statement of a date constitutes confirmation of the artist’s continued existence, touching on mortality without melodrama or sentimentality. The more days that pass mean that there are fewer remaining in the lives to be lived through them – a hard fact to grasp, especially in a kindergarten, a place where life is so fresh.

The title, Pure Consciousness, refers to the directness with which children of kindergarten age (five- and six-year-olds) apprehend the vast range of new phenomena that they encounter. The novelty of experience means that their consciousness is not skewed by too many memories of similar experience or habituation. The possibility of this state being retrievable in later life is suggested by On Kawara, not only in the uncompromising here-and-now of each painting but also in his repetitious practice. Like a mantra, it encourages concentration on a simple act toward a oneness with the world.

Pure Consciousness is remarkable for its non-art context – the combination of On Kawara’s paintings with non-art objects. Its viewers are essentially those who do not yet have a definition of art and who are still largely untouched by the cramping and conventional ideas of art that feature in subsequent education.

Pure Consciousness has enriched kindergartens in Madagascar, Sydney, Bhutan, Abidjan, Istanbul, Shanghai, and Reykjavik. Bethlehem, the birthplace of the calendar that is the basis of On Kawara’s Date Paintings, has a symbolic significance for this project that is particularly poignant.

Notes to Editors:

1. Pure Consciousness will be installed at Dar Al-Kalima College, Arts and Crafts Department, P. O. Box 162, 109 Paul VI Street, Bethlehem, Palestine.

2. For images, or to arrange an interview with Jonathan Watkins, please contact Jigisha Patel, PR Manager, at 0121-248-0708, or e-mail

3. ArtSchool Palestine is a structure and place for the exchange and development of contemporary Palestinian art. For further information, please visit the website or contact Samar Martha at

4. The Second Riwaq Biennale, In Palestine, is a series of curated conversations and actions in an unprecedented assembly between local and internationally renowned architects, artists, conservationists, planners, curators, and theorists. By focusing on process rather than end product, the Second Riwaq Biennale questions the role of culture and its practitioners in relation to their communities and to the wider international artistic community.

In this way it aims to create contacts and networking opportunities between Palestinian and international creative forces, leading to a series of related workshops, gatherings, projects, exhibitions, and a symposium that will be organised throughout Palestine during 2007 and 2008.


This Week in Palestine

October 2007

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