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”. 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, while placed in a special booth. Each new reading continues in numerical order from the previous session, until all the years are read.
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.