Hanne Darboven

Vanessa Place

When men count / They do not err / In their minds. –Louis Zukofsky, “A”1

Dear Suzanne–I hope I made myself/ it / understood_; thank you–the work–love hanne –Hanne Darboven2

Hanne Darboven, <em>Wunschkonzert</em> (detail), 1984.

Hanne Darboven, Wunschkonzert (detail), 1984. Ink on paper, collaged greeting cards; 1008 pages and 1 index sheet; 11.69 x 8.46 in. each. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Galerie Klosterfeldt, Berlin. Photo: Brian Forrest.

The works of Hanne Darboven work like a mountain: the top can’t be seen from the bottom, the base disappears from the summit, the whole escapes the climber as the pilot misses the point, it stands as metaphor for something that exists metonymically, exists as a surplus of the Real with an excess of the Symbolic, and is both of the moment and continuously monumental. Darboven’s great installations, rarely exhibited in the United States, typically involve hundreds to thousands of pieces, including pure gridded repetitions, dumb reiterations, and things both readymade and perversely and purely idiosyncratic. The scale is dwarfed only by the ambition. Though her work has been understood most frequently in terms of seriality, temporality, and a kind of maximalist minimalism, Darboven is in all things, all things. For hers is not so much the work of movement, though there is that, as that of the panoramic view. History that is, as History is, purposefully literary, always in the present tense.

Darboven died in 2009 in Hamburg, where she worked and lived on her prosperous parents’ property.3 At the time of her death, she was a celebrity in Western Europe while remaining something of a Conceptual artist’s Conceptual artist in America. There is still relatively little written about her in English, where she most often appears as a name on a list of influential first Conceptual practitioners in New York, wedged between Lawrence Weiner and Sol LeWitt.4 She was only in New York from 1966 to 1968; however, during that time, she managed to meet and impress those who would be her peers, and to develop what would be her message and medium–signifiers.5 Most often numbers or single words or letters, generally handwritten, represented in grids or columns, crossed-out or cast in absurdly simple equations. A series of u’s, lined through. The date as a word, “heute” (today), lined-through, as if done, “heute.” The date as a matter of addition: November 1, 1984 rendered as 1+11+8+4=24. A word negated, a letter undone, a number without significance, or without apparent significance, which makes it appear significant, at least as a dumb signifier, like the mooted word and the barred letter. For that matter, Darboven’s maxim, repeated to would-be critics and real-life friends, was a reiteration of Carl Andre’s motto: “Never apologize, never explain.”

Many English-language critics appear to have taken Darboven at her appropriated word, not so much explaining the works as describing them, primarily in terms of their formalized engagements with time–time as iterable and reiterated, as chock-full of importance (what we call history) as it is more or less meaningless (what history calls us). This is existentially illustrated in Darboven’s use, in Fur Jean-Paul Sartre 1975 (1975), of the philosopher’s birth date and the date of his sixty-eighth birthday. In the 885 sheets of individually framed paper composing the work, Darboven included her transcription of extracts from Sartre’s autobiography, Les Mots, and an interview given by Sartre in 1975 in Der Spiegel. Darboven’s apparently dialectical move backs viewers into various corners as they attempt to fashion some sort of resolution to what seems so irresolute, resolutions which themselves vacillate in similar dialectical fashion. For example, Lynne Cook has highlighted Darboven’s combination of the Greco-Roman calendar and grid (the latter presumptively non-narrative) with culture Kraft und Kitsch (pinups of movie stars, battle plans and photos of New York doorways) in her vast Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983 (1980-83) as creating a “synthetic, if subjective, reading of history.”6 This synthesis is countered by Dan Adler’s consideration of the same work, which argues that the piece resists any kind of totalizing reading, ascribing its machinations to the allegorical product of an obsessive, a characterization that echoes Lucy Lippard’s 1973 description of Darboven’s “obsession,” one marked by a moving combination of “mesmeric sincerity” and “impersonal ‘conceptualism.'”7 In a 1993 review, Donald Kuspit, while proclaiming Darboven’s Studenbuch (Book of Hours) (1991) an “expressive triumph,” similarly alluded to its “incomprehensibility and redundancy.”8 For his part, Benjamin Buchloh characterized Darboven’s practice as the replacement of traditional compositional principles with “an arbitrary, abstract principle of pure quantification,” while Joachim Kaak resolved the matter in his 2000 essay by finding that Darboven turned time and space into time and space: “Art is no longer the illustration of reality, but rather its equivalent.”9 Which, in turn, harkens back to Lippard’s 1973 reference to Darboven’s embrace of John Anthony Thwaites’s 1972 comparison of her work to Penelope (i.e., process not product) as a way of grasping Darboven’s practice as fundamentally turning time to timelessness.10

In all fairness, Darboven contributed to this tautological temptation by developing her art in a series of complementary progressive movements, beginning in 1968 when she added calculations based on the calendar to her permutational drawing practice, thus creating what she termed “mathematical prose,” otherwise known as “real writing.”11 In the early 1970s, Darboven began to include her own cursive handwriting to the compositions; in 1973, she incorporated transcribed texts, first from Heinrich Heine and, as noted above, Jean-Paul Sartre. In 1978, visual documentation was added, primarily appropriated images; in 1979, she introduced musical compositions for organ, double bass, string quartet, and chamber orchestra based on her mathematical notations. While various elements were strategically deployed in discreet works, the basic compositional elements remained unchanged: a surfeit of signifiers. Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983 is 1,590 sheets (27 1/2 x 19 3/4 inches each), with nineteen accompanying sculptural objects, including manikins in medical gear, an old English-language Bible, and a child’s rocking chair. The sheets include a movie studio photo of movie star Ronald Reagan as the sheriff, Der Spiegel covers, a reproduced studio photo of a camera on a tripod, stamped picture-postcards of picturesque mountains, snaps of Hitler saluting, and Hallmark-type Schlag. Hommage a Picasso 1995-2006 (2006) contains 9,720 sheets of paper with handwritten numerical constructions based on the date of the writing, reproductions of Pablo Picasso’s Woman with Turkish Headdress (1955), all encased in hand-painted frames inspired by the same Picasso painting. Sculptural components include a commissioned bronze bust of Picasso, a bronze goat modeled after Picasso’s own Esmeralda and a donkey woven from birch branches by Polish craftsmen, as well as a Miro-like surrealist chair, a nod to Miro’s own Hommage a Picasso (1972).12 One Century (1975) was 365 binders of typewritten pages, one page per day, one date per binder (all January 1 in one binder, January 2 in another, etc.). The follow-up book project, One Century: Dedicated to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1988), composed in honor of Goethe’s 150th anniversary, was 899 typewritten pages, each page having the header “Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, von, +22.3.1832, Weimar,” the date of the typing, and “heute.” The first section consists of re-typed pages on Goethe from the Brockhaus Encyclopedia; the pages of the second section are filled with numbered paragraphs, each paragraph headed by the mathematical formula for the date of March 22 plus the year, beginning in 1832, ending in 1982, in which the artist typed out the words for numbers, eins (one) through whatever the numeric signifier of that date’s number, handwriting the date of the typing in the margin. The third section is composed of blocks of typewritten numbers, each block consisting of typed numbers beginning with one-two and adding another word-number at each entry. The start date is the start date of the work, the end date, the date of completion. This obviously forms the primary grid of signification, although the sheets are subdivided into numbered paragraphs.13 As in Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983, the swath of a hundred years’ time in One Century is, like any other swath, arbitrarily shorn from its whole.

While comprehensibility may lie in the mind’s “I,” it seems to me that Darboven makes her intentions breathtakingly and consistently crystalline. Any failure of explanation (including this one) is the fault and folly of believing in text, when we all know that text only occurs in context. The commonplace interpretive error is to take Darboven’s signifiers at face value–oddly, to make a Greenbergian assumption that they are what they materially represent, including the materiality of Time and History. After all, Darboven said, “My secret is that I have none.”14 But Darboven was smarter than this and more duplicitous in that, like the liar’s paradox, her secret is an open one. Put another way, her multiple panels have been compared to an exploded book, and Darboven said she preferred to see her work in book form. This means that they should be read. Put another way, contra Lynne Cooke, the grid is narrative and must be seen as such. Like Gertrude Stein (with whom Darboven was compared and on whom she based her Quartett >88< of 1988), repetition is never repeating, but accumulating, emphasizing, analogizing, allegorizing.15 If Darboven is allegorical, if, for that matter, all Conceptual art is allegorical, the question becomes–allegorical of what? Adler sees in Darboven an allegory of history in the Jamesean sense, a cluster of fragments clutched in a futile attempt at (re)unification. Brigid Doherty sees the work as an allegorization of the literary epic and the writing of history. But Darboven is much closer to the brute Walter Benjamin, whose Passagenwerk (Arcades Project) was both a culture worker’s exegesis of reproduction and an aesthete’s refutation of fungibility, and was itself a failure to synthesize, the failure of writing to write.16 However, Darboven’s production surpasses Benjamin as her failure to synthesize is itself intentionally synthesized and synthetic, while being also manifestly written, rewritten, and unwritten. In other words, Darboven’s allegories are themselves allegorical. The answer thus becomes–allegorical of: the message is the medium.

Hanne Darboven, <em>Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983</em>, 1980–83.

Hanne Darboven, Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983, 1980–83. Installation view at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, Beacon, New York, May 2003–March 2005. Lannan Foundation; long-term loan. Photo: Florian Holzherr. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York.

Another one of Darboven’s maxims: “I write with numbers, I count with words.” What do numbers write? Dates, yes, but dates as equations, as representations broken down into other signs, other representations. What do words count? “Today” is written often, and often crossed out, like a date on a calendar, and the present counts (always) as one, just as the past is just another present, and any one throws us back into the notion of the written number, to another “one,” to citation, which is always representation without representation. “I write and don’t describe. One one is one two 2 Two is one two 2.”17 Darboven’s infamous “u” is typically read as either banal graphic symbol or simple repetition, missing the material point that “u” in German works as an ampersand in English, as the graphic equivalent to “und” (“and”). The metronome drone uuuuuuu… thus becomes the plainsong &&&&&&&…, and its crossing-out, the enactment of a present-tensed past. Sign as word, word as number, number as written, counting words. Signifier signifying in the old-school sense of deploying a variety of contradictory rhetorical moves in a single, frequently quotational, gesture.

The exhibition catalogue for Darboven’s 1986 Histoire de la Culture 1980/1983 <> concludes with a forty-nine-page reproduction of the artist’s handwritten explanatory notes to curator Suzanne Page, Darboven’s German translated into French. This proves a codex of sorts, given that the artist, while effusively obliging, remains unrelentingly logical, epistemological, and always elliptical. Rather than dilate on a point, she repeats; in lieu of refuting, she crosses-out, preferring the catalog over the conjugation. In this sense, it is a mistake to read Darboven’s larger project as postmodern or in any way parataxical, for the problem Darboven posits is always the bottom-line problem of the a priori. In these notes, she cites the number qua number, noting that numbers are absolute (regardless of their sign), numbers are real (they lie along the (+)(-) continuum), and numbers are relative (defined by their relation to zero). Reference to relativity leads to references to relativism, to Immanuel Kant, to the Marburg School, to gradations of temperature, to the concept of zero, to the circle as a series of kinds of determined lines, to the history of zero, to the difference between the physical, the psychic, and the metaphysical in Plato, Aristotle. Dates are cited only “for example”: “1844: Marx meets Engels in Paris,” “1933 > Hitler, Garrison Church Potsdam, 1st seat of NSDAP (National Socialist Party of the Reichstag -).” In a rare expository moment, Darboven writes: “The concept can be understood and described empirically, i.e., in its external manifestations (for example -> feelings). It is understandable through different positions determined by the history of the Spirit.”18

Hanne Darboven, "Hommage à Picasso," 1995–2006.

Hanne Darboven, Hommage à Picasso, 1995–2006. Installation view, Deutsche Guggenheim, February 4–April 23, 2006. © Deutsche Guggenheim. Photo: Mathias Schormann.

Hanne Darboven, <em>Wunschkonzert</em. (detail), 1984.

Hanne Darboven, Wunschkonzert (detail), 1984. Ink on paper, collaged greeting cards; 1008 pages and 1 index sheet; 11.69 x 8.46 in. each. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Galerie Klosterfeldt, Berlin. Photo: Brian Forrest.

According to Georg W. F. Hegel, “Number is the middle term of the organic form, which links indeterminate life with actual concrete life, simple like the former and determined like the latter…. for number is just that entirely inactive, inert, and indifferent characteristic in which every movement and relational process is extinguished, and which has broken the bridge leading to the living expression of impulses, manner of life, and whatever other sensuous existence there is.”

Number, then, is a hinge between thing-ness (a literary or linguistic conceit) and thing, or that which connects other things: signifier -> signifiers. Hegel also described Number as “the absolute notion, which finds no opposition in an object, and is not restricted in itself.”19 Number is object and abstraction, so the move turns from thing to thing-ness, and back again. Not dialectically, but really. The circle is a determinate line, made up of infinite points, like history, if history is seen as linear in its experience, circular in its interpretation, defined by theology, philosophy, personality, and science.

In her notes, Darboven cites Kant, the Marburg School, and Christian Wolff. If the fundament of Kant was the immutable a priori–structural concepts and categories, including the stubborn fact of subjectivity–the primary thesis of the post-Kantian Marburg School (late nineteenth century, with a revival in the 1970s) was to recalibrate the epistemological focus on the natural and cultural rules that order all sensibility, rather than on the perceiver and the thing perceived. Wolff is one of the dots connecting Gottfried Leibniz and Kant, as he advocated mathematics as the preferred method for demonstrating metaphysics (both being a priori sciences).20 According to Wolff, scientific knowledge could be divided into three primary categories–history, philosophy, and mathematics–the three categories Darboven primarily dwells in.21

Hanne Darboven, <em>Wunschkonzert</em>, 1984.

Hanne Darboven, Wunschkonzert, 1984. Installation view at Regen Projects 11, Los Angeles (December 15, 2010–January 29, 2011). Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Galerie Klosterfeldt, Berlin. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Heinrich Heine also appears in the endnotes to Histoire de la Culture; Darboven quotes his History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany and its discussion of the creation of the world and the Jews as the Divine’s aristocracy. 22 This proves another history hinge, as Heine goes on in that text to presage the failure of Christianity to ameliorate German love of war: “Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is, I admit, thoroughly German–not very nimble–it comes rolling along somewhat slowly, but it does come. When you hear its crash, which will be unlike anything before in the history of the world, you will know that German thunder has at last hit the mark…. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.”23 Heine was a political troublemaker, a converted Jew, and an ambivalent Marxist; for Darboven to cite Heine also draws a circular arrow from 1844 to 1933. Marx meets Engels in Paris, anti-Hegelian book to follow–Heine, who moved from Hamburg to Paris, has already predicted Marxism will destroy aestheticism and Germany, Europe. In Potsdam on “The Day of Potsdam,” Hindenburg signs over authority to Hitler, signifying the transition from Second to Third Reich and the move from parliamentary democracy to authoritarian state; the Nazis will burn both Marx and Heine’s books and (old) Europe itself.

Hanne Darboven, <em>Wunschkonzert</em> (detail), 1984.

Hanne Darboven, Wunschkonzert (detail), 1984. Ink on paper, collaged greeting cards; 1008 pages and 1 index sheet; 11.69 x 8.46 in. each. Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Galerie Klosterfeldt, Berlin. Photo: Brian Forrest.

The city of Hamburg is a link in Darboven’s signifying constellation that I’ve not seen elsewhere exploited, though the autobiographical elements in her works are otherwise well noted. In addition to Heine, et al., Hamburg was home to Arthur Schopenhauer, whose exegesis of the operation of Will–that mindless drive to which Freud added the all-important qualifier “death”– as Representation is a neat exegesis of Darboven, sum. Schopenhauer insisted on the lack of any objective existence to the thing-in-itself and the functional fact of form as simple reproduction of Idea. “The object of aesthetic contemplation is not the individual thing, but the Idea in it striving for revelation.”24 By contemplating the thing, we become de-individualized subjects of knowledge, and all for the better, because the world is only as a site for comprehension. Comprehension, in turn, is the world’s condition. Time and space are idem, time being “merely the potential for conflicting states of the same matter” and space “merely the potential for the endurance of the same matter under all conflicting states.”25 All things in all things.

Kant described the sublime as that which eludes direct comprehension. There are two Kantian categories of the sublime: mathematical and dynamic. The mathematical sublime is a quantitative measure–the thing is too big for our understanding (mountain); the dynamic is qualitative–the thing is too forceful to be grasped (storm). The trump card is the understanding itself: the sublime is pleasurable because we can experience it relative to what we know versus what we experience; the sublime is unpleasant because it provokes the limits of what we can know (or imagine). Hegel resolves the problem of the limit via Absolute Knowledge, the knowledge of all things, perceptible via scientific systems–scientific systems which exist, however, according to Kant, within the predicates of time and space. Is Darboven not recreating the very problem of the sublime while tweaking its significance? Playing the quantitative and qualitative registers of too-muchness, but much of this de trop is detritus. In this, Darboven mirrors our digital age where the time/ space place is full of informational jewels and junk in no particular perceptible order, indistinguishable in their basic digitized form. All we know are symbols, symbolic of nothing in themselves but the process of symbolism itself. One and one are one one.Or, as Slavoj Zizek has put it: “The Symbolic is above all a place, a place that was originally empty and subsequently filled with the bric-a-brac of the symbolic order.”26

Time, like Number, like History, is Concept. Concept can either be or not be. Darboven meets Schopenhauer, Hegel, Sartre, Heine, Kant, and Kitsch at the place where mirrors face. Her work is terminal realism insofar as the mirror interrupts the real while being itself part of the refractured u reconstituted real. This is where the German “und und und” meets the English “you you you.” If meaning only in repetition, repetition only in temporality, and temporality equaling narrativity, then Darboven is doing nothing less than creating fields in which we are lucky enough to be confronted by the pitiless and pretty fact of our ongoing goings-on, our Sisyphean attachment to meaning-making and the preciousness of each and every snowflake one of us. Put another way: in 1949, Lacan published the final version of his “mirror stage.” For the child, the mirror creates an “I” that is more incorporated than any cell-walled self. That “I” will subsequently reincorporate information internally as having been external to that externally incorporated I, “I” = I.27 In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir published, in The Second Sex, “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.”28 Note the final looping of subject as object, object as subject, of ciphering and significance. It’s very elegant, this ontic-logical fluidity, this idiolectic dialectic. Hegel, quoting Aristotle: “Movement can neither come into being, nor cease to be; nor can time come into being, or cease to be.”29 Just like music. As noted, Darboven composed musical scores based on simple transpositions of her numbers to points on a scale; to quote a paraphrase of John Cage: “music fills time with utter determination.”30 “Utter” being the quilting point here.

The signifying monkey in all this is clearly me. For one of the great jokes of citation is its appropriation of authority while simultaneously confessing its own castration, its own lack of significance via other signification. My close and quote-filled reading of Darboven dilates on many points and still misses the point right in front of me–dumb materiality, the dumber the better. For the more opaque the surface, the muter and mooter the matter, more to the heart of matter–it’s a mirror, this this, a surface of imaginable depths. Or of only imaginary depths, of monumental depths with imagined significance. In other words, isn’t the real sublime? And isn’t this the clerical work of our kind? To cite, finally, Hegel on Darboven: “The process of carrying forward this claim of knowledge of itself is the task which spirit accomplishes as actual History.”31

Hanne Darboven, <em>Hommage à Picasso</em>, 1995–2006.

Hanne Darboven, Hommage à Picasso, 1995–2006. Installation view, Deutsche Guggenheim, February 4–April 23, 2006. © Deutsche Guggenheim. Photo: Mathias Schormann.

Vanessa Place is a writer, lawyer, and co-director of Les Figues Press.


  1. Louis Zukofsky, “A” (New York: New Directions, 2011), 235.
  2. Hanne Darboven, Hanne Darboven “Histoire de la Culture” 1980/1983 “24 chants,” Suzanne Page and Annie Merie, eds. (Paris: ARC Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1986), n.p.
  3. In Weltansichten 00-99, 1975-1980 (1982), Darboven combined her “mathematical prose” with souvenir postcards from “J.W. Darboven’s Kaffee.” According to the company website, J.J. Darboven (est. 1866) High Quality Coffee is “appreciated around the world.”
  4. Lynne Cooke references a “rich and substantial literature” on Darboven’s work in her posthumous tribute to Darboven (“Open Work: Hanne Darboven [1941–2009],” Artforum [Summer 2009], 57); however, Cooke isn’t language-specific.
  5. Of his first encounter with Darboven’s art, LeWitt said: “the elegance of this work and thinking is something one never forgets.” Weiner said it better: “it is what it is.” (“it is what it is,” Obituary: Hanne Darboven, Deutsche Bank Art Works,
  6. Lynne Cooke, “Open Work: Hanne Darboven (1941-2009).”
  7. Dan Adler, Hanne Darboven: Cultural History 1880-1983 (London: Afterall Books, 2009), 4-5, 24; and Lucy R. Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1973), 216.
  8. Triumphant mostly because of what Kuspit sees as the (ironic) introduction of a populist figure (Lincoln) into the abstraction. Kuspit characterizes Darboven as an intellectual artist because of her engagement in a Wittgensteinian “language game.” Donald Kuspit, “hanne darboven,” Artforum (October 1993).
  9. Benjamin Buchloh, “Conceptual Art 1962–1969: From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions,” October 55 (Winter 1990): 122; and Joachim Kaak, “hanne darboven—7 Tafeln, II, 1972/3,” Hanne Darboven / John Cage: A Dialogue of Artworks (Munich: Hatje Cantz, 2000), 26.
  10. Lucy R. Lippard, “Hanne Darboven: Deep in Numbers,” From the Center: Feminist Essays on Women’s Art (New York: Dutton, 1976) (reprinted from Artforum [October 1973]), 185. Thwaites’s piece, “The Numbers Game,” originally appeared in Art and Artists (January 1972).
  11. As quoted by Brigid Doherty, “Hanne Darboven’s ‘Real Writing’ of History,” Hanne Darboven: Menschen und Landschaften (Schaffhausen: Hallen Fur neue Kunst, 1999), 31.
  12. Hanne Darboven: Hommage to Picasso, Valerie Hillings, Linda Nochlin, and Wolfgang Marx, eds. (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2006), 41.
  13. Dan Graham, Hanne Darboven: One Century (Ghent, Belgium: Imschoot, 1988).
  14. Lippard, From the Center, 187.
  15. Cooke’s Dia essay misses this point by describing Darboven’s grid as “endless and infinitely repeatable.” Cooke, “Hanne Darboven,” By the same token, Craig Owens characterized Darboven as obsessive and allegorical: “static, ritualistic, repetitive.” Craig Owens, “The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of the Postmodern,” Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1992), 57.
  16. Benjamin’s great montage work, begun in 1927, unfinished at his death in 1940, is a compilation of quotations on things and thing-ness (“Fashion,” “Boredom,” “Photography,” “Catacombs,” “Baudelaire”), a critique of bourgeois nineteenth century historiography and an encyclopedia of ephemera. (Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project [Cambridge: Belknap/ Harvard University Press, 2002]). Luckily, Benjamin did not live to complete his dialectical synthesis of his material, which would have formally betrayed his allegory of history as a ruin, a pile of rubble that was never a castle, but is mistaken as such by latecomers (us).
  17. Hanne Darboven, Hanne Darboven “Histoire de la Culture” 1980/1983 “24 chants,” 10.
  18. Darboven, < < Histoire de la Culture > >, 19; see fns. 30 and 31, ante.
  19. Georg W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of the Spirit (The Phenomenology of Mind), trans. J.B. Baillie (LaVergne, TN: Digireads Bks, 2009), 129 and 245.
  20. Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716), mathematician and philosopher, was famed for his theory of monads, those eternal metaphysical particles characterized by their simplicity, irreducibility and force. God is a monad. Leibniz was another one of Darboven’s touchstones; see her Evolution Leibniz, 1986, created in honor of the 350th anniversary of Leibniz’s death. It’s Darboven shuttering the Enlightenment. Darboven, Evolution Leibniz: 1986 (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 1996).
  21. Christian Wolff, “The Three Types of Human Knowledge: History, Philosophy and Mathematics,” Preliminary Discourse (Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963).
  22. Darboven cites Heine frequently as an influence. Heine’s oeuvre includes the following conceptual-type poem circa 1828: The German Censors– — — — — / — — — — — — — — — — / — — — — — — — — — — / — — — — — — — — — – / — — — — — — — — — – / — — — — – — — — — – / — — — — – — idiot — — / — — — — – — — — — – / — — — — — — — — — – / — — — — – — — — — – / — — — — – (Heinrich Heine, Ideen: das Buch Le Grand, 1828.) It is worth noting that German censors in Heine’s time had to approve any book under 320 pages in order for it to be distributed throughout the nation-states; dissidents often used large print to up the page count. While there is nothing to suggest Darboven was aware of this history/practice, her preference for the mammoth count certainly provokes a similar disinterest in a close (censorial) reading.
  23. Heinrich Heine, The Poetry and Prose of Heinrich Heine (New York: Citadel Press, 1948), from Religion and Philosophy in Germany, trans. Frederic Ewen, 761.
  24. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation vol. I, trans. E.F.J. Payne (Mineola, New York: Dover, 1969), 209. I have not found any direct reference to Schopenhauer by Darboven, though such a lapse seems practically impossible.
  25. Schopenhauer, 66. Enter Hegel, again: “Time is just the notion definitely existent…. Time is the pure self in external form, apprehended in intuition, and not grasped and understood by the self, it is the notion apprehended only through intuition. When this notion grasps itself, it supersedes its time character, (conceptually) comprehends intuition, and is intuition comprehended and comprehending.” Hegel, 362. Intuition = Spirit.
  26. Slavoj Zizek, Interrogating the Real (New York: Continuum, 2010), 45.
  27. Jacques Lacan, “The Mirror stage as formative of the function of the I,” Ecrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W.W. Norton, 1977), 1–7.
  28. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, ed. and trans. H.M. Parshley (New York: Random House, 1974), 301, emphasis added. A grave error is made in the new translation, in which the line becomes “One is not born, but rather becomes woman.” de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovanychevallier (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 283. Though arguably closer to the original (“On ne nait pas femme, on le devient”), there is the literal matter of the individual (and the individual subject). By dropping the “a,” the mirror-generated and gendered “I” captured in the first translation is elided into a flatter, polymorphous gender category, which does not essentially exist and which one does not become. On another note, I am deeply indebted to Elisabeth Lebovici for pointing out the 1949 confluence of events.
  29. Hegel, 366.
  30. Reinhard Beuth, “Music without drama,” Stedelijk Museum, Darboven said: “Eins + eins ist eins zwei. Zwei ist eins zwei: Das ist meine Urthese fur alle Gesetze, die bei mir mathematisch durchlaufen. Ich schreibe mathematische Literatur und mathematische Musik.” (“One plus one is one two. Two is one of two: This is my ur-thesis for all the laws that for me run through mathematics. I write mathematic literature and mathematic music.”)
  31. Hegel, 362.
Further Reading