Conceptual in nature, Hanne Darboven's art deals with the passage of time and implies the human desire to stop it. The main component of her practice is continuous daily writing that both articulates the measurement of days and eliminates their arbitrary separation. Systems of ordering time based on numbers, musical notations, and calendars have been her principal points of departure. These systems, along with uncensored accounts of her daily activities presented in serial formats, create a coded history in which she conflates the autobiographical with the collective.
Sometimes Darboven's cursive lines simply emulate writing, but actually are devoid of syntax and content and represent only a temporal process. She often presents her work in installations of small, identically sized sheets of paper containing this writing. She has also created artist's books that combine these sheets as pages, and a small but significant body of prints, often in portfolio formats that support her serial investigations.
Photographs, some taken by the artist and others found, also appear in her work, adding new references and contexts. Harburg Sand depicts six identical images of an old postcard of a suburb of Hamburg, yet implies a sequence. The text on the first image, dated June 12, 1988, describes the artist watching television, while her mother looks at a clothing catalogue. The other images are progressively dated from June 13 to June 17. Texts begin with the words "work harburg today," and the word "today" is crossed out before the numerical indication of the date. Calculations add together digits comprising these dates. Such numerical, textual, and cursive-line juxtapositions emphasize Darboven's contradictory sense of time as both passing and stopped by her intervention.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Raimond Livasgani, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 186.