Hanne Darboven


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German artist, born in Munich. In 1966–8 she was in New York, where she became friendly with Sol LeWitt and, under his influence, made drawings on graph paper which were representations of time. Afterwards she returned to Germany and has lived and worked in Hamburg ever since. Her work is based on sequences of numbers, involving the addition of calendar dates. Lucy Lippard has written that the content of the works was not mathematics ‘so much as the process of continuation—a process which takes time to do’. Thus Darboven is actually closer to process than Conceptual art and she has described the use of numbers as ‘a way of writing without describing’. Her later work explores two ways of marking time, both objectively as a framework which can be counted by numbers, and subjectively, by the passage of events. In the latter, time is not a simple continuum but involves memory and the interaction between past and present. Between 1975 and 1985, she constructed a work consisting of more than 4,000 sheets. This marked the passage of time with torn-off calendar pages, manually transcribed texts—Darboven loves writing but dislikes reading—and photographic sections. So the work reflects on the contemporary tensions within German society referring to terrorism, the divisions between the East and West, but also on German history, the legacies of the Nazi era, and the heritage of the Romantic cult of genius. One section, produced between August and October 1982, is dedicated to the film director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who had died prematurely earlier that year. The period of work was also marked by major political changes in West Germany, viewed with concern by Darboven, from a social-liberal to a conservative-liberal coalition. Fassbinder's development from experimental to commercial film-making reflected that change.

Subjects: Art.

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