On the occasion of “Hanne Darboven: Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983” currently on view at Dia:Chelsea, New York, and “Hanne Darboven: Packed Time” opening February 25 at Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, contributing editor Bruce Hainley speculatively explores the artist’s epic activation of personal and political history.
HANNE DARBOVEN’S FATHER, CÄSARtrained as a chemist, heir to and head of his family’s coffee-roasting business, which expanded during World War II as the coffee supplier for the Nazi forces1“smoked some seventy cigarettes a day.”2 His daughter equaled, or perhaps even surpassed, his daily habit: She was rarely seen or pictured without a cigarette in hand. Lawrence Weiner remembers Darboven smoking Salem menthols in the 1970s (“We constantly kidded her about it”).3 Was the preference merely funny? Perhaps it signaled other cultural echoes, other milieus, concerns, affinities, however far-flung. For instance, menthols have historically been preferred by many African American smokers. (Dave Chappelle had some fun with this in his “I Know Black People” game-show sketch. The comedian asks contestants, “Why do black people love menthols so much?” “I don’t know,” a social
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