Hanne Darboven's "Quartett '88" is dedicated to four outstanding women of the 20th century: Marie Curie, Rosa Luxemburg, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf. The significance of their work in the fields of science, politics/society, and art/literature in the context of historico-cultural events taking place at the same time is related to the present. The structure of the work is based on an aesthetic concept developed by Hanne Darboven in the past 20 years, consisting of writing down and writing out temporal sequences of events.
The method of Hanne Darboven's aesthetic concept is based on the graphicness of mathematical operations and her preoccupation with philosophical logic. She describes her works as "mathematical literature" and "mathematical music". A recurring topic is time, the progressive flow of which can only be perceived in nature. As opposed to this, Hanne Darboven illustrates the limits of our existence using the simple systematicity of the calendar. She transfers the illustrated flow of time in the calendar to a transparent system based on the addition of digits indicating day, month, and year. The digits signifying the century and the millennium are omitted and the digits signifying decade and year are treated as natural numbers. This simple mathematical operation results in only 42 possible combinations within one year; only 1.1. and 12.30 and 12.31 occur once. At the same time, Hanne Darboven translates this additive concept of dates into musical scores, in which the digit 1 stands for the note e, 2 for f, 3 for g, etc. Compound numbers are expressed as an interval of two notes, e.g. 31=g-e, 24=f-h, etc., and numbers combined with 0 are used as broken chords.
In "Quartett '88", the period of time of 1988 is recorded on 745 individual leaves. In the course of the year - illustrated by the photo of a life-size puppet from the turn of the century - the life-spans of the four women are marked by highlighting the dates of birth and death; they are thus tightly linked with the year in which the work was created. While the date of death is only marked by inserting the portrait, a synopsis of the individual life-story appears on the respective birthday. This consists of an article from the Brockhaus Encyclopedia - as a reference to the biography - and excerpts from the Stein Cultural Timetable outlining the context of parallel events in the fields of politics, science, and art in the years of birth and death of the respective women. The end of the synopsis consists in a series of individual leaves for each birthday, before the course of the year 1988 is continued. At the end of the work, Hanne Darboven placed a print of the bilingual edition of Gertrude Stein's "Birthday Book", in which Stein uses the days of the year as the structure for a poem having the character of a poetic diary.
Along the lines of this conceptual method with its interdisciplinary links between art and literature, the works of Hanne Darboven call for a book publication - next to the presentation in an exhibition - as an adequate aesthetic and thematic alternative. The book being published parallel to the exhibition at Portikus Frankfurt am Main (March 17 - April 16, 1990) contains on a smaller scale all drawings including the red-patterned leaf frames characteristic of so many works of Hanne Darboven. The work therefore remains readable in regard to form and contents.