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its manifold forms

June 1, 2009

One afternoon, sometime in the mid-1980s, I paid a visit to Leo Castelli’s gallery on West Broadway to see a Hanne Darboven show. The only other person in the room at that moment was the artist herself, whom I instantly recognized from photographs. After some minutes, I approached—whether to introduce myself or to comment on the work, I hadn’t quite decided. As if suddenly sensing my presence, she turned and blurted out: “No questions.” Then, without giving me time to parley, she left. So began what would develop into, despite this unpromising debut, a close professional and personal friendship. But it took time.

Time, in its manifold forms, was in fact the very focus of Hanne’s art: For her, it was the primary entity structuring human life. Though at first confined to numerical and mathematical writing because, in her words, “it’s a way of writing without describing,” in the late ’60s her art came to center on the calendar, a ready-made temporal system with a universal orientation. Ostensibly systematic, ordered, and strictly regulated, the form of a work could on occasion, as seen in Posthum Meiner Mutter (Posthumous to My Mother), 1999, incorporate a highly subjective experience of duration in conjunction with a collective, public one. (read)

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