Hanne Darboven's Address Place and Time

The work of the German artist Hanne Darboven (1941–2009), an important figure in the history of Conceptual art, is the subject of a focused exhibition at the Museum. Featuring a diverse array of works on paper by the artist, Hanne Darboven’s Address—Place and Time investigates how Darboven’s art engages and reconfigures the calendar and the postal system as cultural techniques for the temporal and spatial organization of the modern world.

Darboven, a native of Hamburg, had her breakthrough during a formative two-year period in New York City, where she moved in 1966. There she participated in groundbreaking exhibitions of Conceptual art, eventually developing an art practice centered on the serial inscription of numerical calculations derived from the dates of the Gregorian calendar. After returning to Hamburg, Darboven lived and worked in her family home, the address of which, Am Burgberg 26, came to figure in her work during the 1970s. Over the course of that decade, her art expanded to incorporate citations from literary, political, and philosophical texts as well as a variety of pictorial elements, many related to the postal system and modern media of communication, including picture postcards and illustrated news magazines.

This exhibition emerged out of the interdisciplinary course "Art Against Culture?," taught by Professor Brigid Doherty, in which undergraduate and graduate students explored how the work of Darboven and other artists and writers in late twentieth-century Germany compelled viewers and readers to consider the oppositional relationship questioned in the course title, particularly in response to the difficulties of reckoning with recent German history. Darboven’s work disrupts cultural norms for representing the abstract concepts and lived particularities of place and time, eliciting questions about the ways these norms have shaped experiences of everyday life, notions of the private and the public, and understandings of history.

The works on view demonstrate the singularity and significance of Darboven’s contributions to art of the past fifty years while exploring connections between her art and that of her peers. Works by the American artist Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), with whom Darboven carried on a decades-long correspondence via post, are featured together with an important early drawing by Darboven from LeWitt’s personal collection. In conjunction with the Museum’s presentation, related installations of Darboven’s work are on view in the Department of German, Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, and the Department of Art and Archaeology.

The exhibition was also the occasion for a series of public events related to Darboven’s work, including a lecture by the artists Nick Mauss and Ken Okiishi and the performance of a new musical work by the composer and artist Seth Cluett, commissioned by the Program in European Cultural Studies. These events illustrated the continued relevance of Darboven’s art for practitioners today.

Nathan Stobaugh
Graduate student, Art & Archaeology