With Holding Objects

A few weeks ago I had the great fortune of remembering to sign up for an event held at the Talbot Rice Gallery where an exhibition of Hanne Darboven’s work was being held.

The project was run as a kind of experiment into collaborations with anthropology and the Talbot Rice.

I was in a group with Lee and Jamie, two anthropologists and Lisa who is a PhD candidate in design, like me. We attended a discussion with Art Therapy students from Queen Margaret University and were led on a tour of the work by curator, James Clegg. Discussions from this event revealed that art therapists don’t use the art made by patients to infer a psychological diagnosis of the creator but use it as a tool to encourage the patient to communicate what is difficult to verbally. This was a challenging idea but the students also said it is not that you don’t have your own immediate reaction or interpretation of an artwork but that it is a personal view and can never be assumed one person’s interpretation will be the same as another’s.

I found the discussions within our group really perplexing, challenging and answers became cyclical – but we thought that was partly Darboven’s intention. There is a paradox in her ideas. I thought that there was some clash of ideology. Her work creates a lot of ‘stuff’ but it is also about simple, underlying ideas of system, time and structure.


I saw Darboven’s work as documentation, her collection as her muse, and her systems as methods of presenting ideas. By labelling her process, I am doing exactly what Hanne Darboven tried never to do – interpret. She was looking for a way of writing… of satisfying the need to create… that would not be able to be interpreted to any negative end, or to add to the chaos of information.


I thought that her collection amassed an archive of evidence of human labour and clamour to make things and understand the world better, paradoxically, this confuses simple messages or questions that we have – why are we here, doing things?

I am really thankful for the time to work with all the people on this project. It was a great opportunity to think deeply and discuss an exhibition at length which made the experience of it all the more rich.




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