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”.

This exhibition was a unique opportunity for you to read from the work, and participate in the extraordinary project to complete a public reading of the entire One Million Years. This is only the second time live readings have taken place in the UK.

The first reading of One Million Years took place in 1993 at Dia Center for the Arts in New York. Since then live readings have been performed across the world, with a man and a woman alternating the reading of Past and Future dates together. Each new reading continues in numerical order from the previous session, until all the years are read. Watch a video of participants reading at David Zwirner Gallery, New York in 2009 here.

For the exhibition at BALTIC we recruited men and women to read in 90-minute slots together. Each day, four time slots were available, for the duration of the two-month exhibition. You could participate in one session, or even come back regularly to continue reading. If you wanted to read with a friend of the opposite gender, you could book slots together. For AV Festival 12 the readings of AD ran from 83701AD to 204780AD and the readings of BC ran from 929276BC to 816999BC.

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.

“I read happily, without thought, without time or worry. I think about how art has long sought to vanquish time, stretch it, crawl inside it. In One Million Years, Kawara allows us to muse about duration and life. The weeks pass, life goes on, but I keep returning to watch and read.” Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine.

Co-curated by AV Festival 12 and BALTIC.

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