Hanne Darboven

born 1941 in Munich; died 2009 in Hamburg

Biography

1962–1965: Studies at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg (University of Fine Arts)

1966–1969: Stays in New York—contact with minimalist artists, including Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre

1967: First solo exhibition at the Galerie Konrad Fischer in Düsseldorf

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Hanne Darboven’s artistic interests include structures and systems of order as well as the forms of their notation as methods of appropriating reality. In particular, they deal with the principles of repetition and variation, which are also basic patterns of human perception, experience, and life organization. Starting in 1970/71, Darboven began to develop notation systems for time sequences using calendar data, which she later linked with images of political and cultural events.

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Darboven lived in New York between 1966 and 1968 and had contact with representatives of minimal art, such as Sol Lewitt and Carl Andre. Her first abstract geometric constructions on graph paper, which she varied serially, emerged during this time. Although minimal art dogmatically insisted on a lack of reference, Darboven soon began to reintroduce specific content and circumstances, with the visualization of time sequences becoming a central theme in her work. She achieved this by developing her own notation systems in which numbers—which she regards as the only real invention of man—play a central role. Her early major work, the installation One Century (Library), 1970/71, is based on traditional calendar dates. She systematizes them according to a personal set of rules on sheets of paper which she groups in folders: From the numbers of days, months, years, and centuries, she forms cross sums and translates these into geometric forms. The extension of time can thus be experienced both as a linear sequence and in the form of tabular figures, with Darboven repeatedly emphasizing the central significance of the aesthetic qualities of her notations.

From the mid-1970s on, specific aspects of human cultural and political history appear in the form of text quotations, drawings, prints, or photographs in Darboven’s visualizations of the passing of time. These are presented without hierarchy or commentary, but one can read a warning commitment between the lines—not least against the background of German twentieth-century history. Materials on the Bismarck period, speeches by Willy Brandt or articles in the magazine Der Spiegel, texts by Heinrich Heine, Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, or Jean Paul Sartre, and photographic and graphic representations of cultural and scientific achievements can become starting points for a critical reflection on the past.

Author: Eva Badura-Triska

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Music

Music

Darboven already begins to refer to the musical aspect of her numbering systems in her early work: »My systems are numerical constructs that work according to the laws of progression or reduction, in the style of a musical theme with variations.«

In 1980, she began translating her sequences of numbers into music as a medium that, like her notations, can be experienced in time.

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Similar to her pictorial works, Darboven’s minimalist serial compositions are based on sequences of numbers, which are created according to individual mathematical principles and then translated into sounds. Darboven handed this task over to the organist Friedrich Stoppa and, after his death, to musicologist Wolfgang Marx. Only the pitches are given by the artist—each digit corresponds to a certain tone. Everything else, such as duration, rhythm or instrumentation, is left to Stoppa or Marx, although Darboven always reserves final control over the release.

Hanne Darboven’s musical work is quite extensive when looked at in its entirety and includes outstanding works such as the string quartet »Opus 26«, from 1989/90, and the wind quintets »Opus 42,« from 1993.

Author: Eva Badura-Triska

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In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Hanne Darboven

Opus 17A, 1984

recording Department of Music NTNU Trondheim, with Michael Francis Duch (bass), Alexander Riris (page turner), 2018, 1:17:51 h.

Film: Jeremy Welsh

Opus 17A is the first of four parts for solo double bass from Hanne Darboven’s monumental composition Wunschkonzert. The title is based on one of the longest-running programs on North German Radio (NDR-Norddeutscher Rundfunk) where one can send musical requests for loved ones: a »wish concert« that often covers a wide variety of genres, ranging from children’s songs to marches and popular music.

Opus 17A is, like many of her works, in many ways a challenging piece for both the audience and performer. The performance usually takes somewhere between 60 and 70 minutes, and the combination of its repetitiveness and slight modulations creates an illusion of repeating patterns. Our brains seek to find patterns and the logic behind the music, although there is no apparent logic to be found, as the patterns are constantly changing.

Opus 17A is both a visual work of art as well as a musical composition based on thirty-six »poems,« each consisting of a title and Darboven’s calculations written on a confirmation greetings card. The musical score is derived from these poems, and in the score each poem consists of two pages. The mathematical translation to music was based on a system where 1 was translated to E, 2 to F, 3 to G, and so on—these were direct transcriptions of her famous number drawings.

Author:

Eva Badura-Triska / Michael Duch

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