Essay on Hanne Darboven’s Clockwise From Right

The artistic display at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery of Hanne Darboven titled, “Clockwise from right”, proves to bring light upon the thoughts of Friedrich Nietzshe. One of Nietzsche’s important topics includes the idea of a rational and intuitive man. This essay will explore the question of whether Nietzshe was right when he said that rationality was artificially created to protect the weak. In a society where there are many practical careers, such as accountants and scientists, it is difficult to reach back to the ancient Greek society to understand how the rational and the intuitive blended together in a flourishing society.

Nietzsche, however, might show a way in which the rational could make an attempt at becoming more intuitive in today’s society. Hanne Darboven was a German artist who is primarily known for her systematic charts, sequences of numbers, and her long strands of looped forms that evoke handwriting. Before becoming an artist, Darboven first trained as a pianist, and in the 1960s she studied graphic design in Hamburg, Germany. In 1966, Darboven left Germany for New York, where she met and exhibited with several artists of the burgeoning Minimalist and Conceptual art movements.

Although Darboven only lived in New York for a couple of years, it was a developmental experience that firmly established her ability to write and draw numbers in such a way that was considered art. Her work in the 1970s was a direct result of type of systematic art she began in New York. Darboven’s work of art, “Clockwise from right”, uses a systematic sequence of numbers, which are written in blocks of 15×15 digits. The exhibit at the Albright-Knox took up an entire wall of these picture frames filled with numbers and what seemed to be calculations.

Initially one might overlook this piece as just a written out math problem, however, Darboven’s notion that numbers are “constant, confined, and artificial” show that there is a deeper meaning behind her numbers. Writing numbers can be considered a mechanical operation that is guided by a set of strict rules. Darboven is using numbers to illustrate the very rigid structure by which people live their lives in today’s society. Darboven’s pieces of art use methods of counting and marking time.

She often starts her drawing with the current alendar date and uses her imagination to evoke simplicity and systematic sequences which represents the political system with which we live. In today’s society, it is difficult for someone with a practical career living by a strict set of rules to still be artistic and intuitive. According to Nietzsche, there are differences between the rational man and the intuitive man. In the ancient Greek society, the rational man was the person who was inartistic and focused solely on completing the principal needs of society. The intuitive man was artistic and blatantly disregarded the principal needs of society.

There is obviously a big conflict in today’s society between the rational man and the intuitive man, however in the Greek society they were able to live in the same community together because there was balance between the principal needs being met and the intellectual mind of the artist being explored. There was an ideal way to live in the Greek society, and it was definitely the way of the intuitive man. According to Nietzsche, the way in which the rational man invests reason was by creating illusion to deceive society.

The rational man may not have been powerful, but the illusion created by him portrayed strength. The only way in which the rational man would gain power would be to get people to believe these illusions as truth. Nietzsche states: What then is truth? A moveable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. 67)

This is the thesis statement of Nietzsche’s essay. Nietzsche points out that truths are just illusion that we have forgotten are illusions (67). An example of this would be the introduction of science or accounting as a career. Science was created using a language that only scientist understood. Accounting is the systematic way of recording the financials of a company. Both science and accounting have been around for so long that that they have been accepted as truth.

But how can anything be truth if a language that is specific to the idea created it? The intuitive man questioned these illusions in society and saw past the illusions that were taught in a church setting. The intuitive man would do his thinking for himself, instead of letting the church do it for him. The intuitive man used art as a way to rebel against the many illusions of society. The truths of the rational man are no less valuable or true that the illusion taught by the church.

This has an impact on the relationship between art and morality. Nietzsche would say that living an artistic life would be moral if not “extra-moral”. However, living the life of the rational man caught up in the illusions is an immoral way of living. In today’s society, the rational man and the intuitive man cannot exist together in a flourishing society. In the world today, if an artist disregards the principal needs of society, they will find that they will struggle to financially support themselves.

The illusions, which have been understood as truth for so long, have gained the ability of finance. This means that money is now connected with getting the principal needs of society met, and that is how a rational man is to survive. This leaves no room for the intuitive man to thin and to be artistic because he still needs money to survive. Over time, the world has created a society, which has hindered the growth and development of artists, and has highlighted the practical careers such as accounting and science.