Hanne Darboven, Camden Arts Centre, London

5.00

The meticulous but empty management of Hanne Darboven makes us think about our need to parcel up our days

Were you to start your visit to the Camden Arts Centre's new show in the gallery's study room, you might come away with entirely the wrong idea about Hanne Darboven.

In a vitrine in the room are, in no particular order, a mini-violin in its case, a box of small pencils (the brand called Rubens, the pencils faded pink), a desk calendar from 1976, another, outsize pencil made from a cardboard poster tube, and a roll-up case containing a vast number of crayons. Knowing that Darboven was German, the words to spring to mind might be "Joseph" and "Beuys". Beuys was the arch-vitrinist, after all, and these objects have the self-mythologising feel of his work. That Darboven has nothing to do with Beuys becomes clear as you walk into the next room.

Hanging on the left wall as you enter Gallery 1 is a piece by Darboven called Weltansichten, ("Visions of the World"). This consists of 14 rectangular works, each framed and hung in a tight grid, four by four but with the right-hand columns missing the bottom parts. Each individual work consists of a white print on a red mount, each print being of four pages from a diary, also arranged in a portrait-format grid, two up, two down. Each red mount is labelled Schreibzeit – "writing time" – while each page-print bears the triple legend Stundenplan, Tagbuch and Wochenplan, hour-, day- and week- planner. Each line of each page has been filled in – the jottings of an excessively meticulous author, you might think, until you go to read the words and find that they are scrawls, blah blah blah blah blah.

All that order, all that organising, for nothing. Not only has Darboven gone to the trouble of choosing just the right card and paper, she has had each sheet printed in two different ways, silkscreen and offset, and then framed and hung. As you stand in front of Weltansichten, you are suddenly aware of time – not just the kind marked by diaries and Stunden, Tagen and Wochen, but of the time it takes to make time, the time-consuming business of inventing it.

Rather than Joseph Beuys, the artist you might find yourself thinking of as you look at Darboven's work is Samuel Beckett. Like the tramps in Waiting for Godot, there seems to be something tragicomic, or maybe absurd, about this pointless time-killing. But that is not quite right, either. Actually, Weltansichten feels less a defeat than a triumph, its meticulousness poised and beautiful. It is as though Darboven has taken the visual nuts and bolts of timekeeping – the addings-up and takings away, the algebraic scribbles – and moulded them into a chronology of her own.

That sense of a new system, of a system beyond systems, is stronger still in 9 x 11 = 99, whose 99 cells or frames are divided into five unequal grids which look, from across the room, as if they might be runic letters that spell out a word. It is there, too, in Appointment Diary, in which the various pages of the American Film Institute desk diary for 1985 have been opened, photographed, mounted and framed in a room-sized installation of 74 parts. Some of the spreads have stills from classic films on the right and blank diary pages on the left, some the other way about; others are double blank pages or double photos. Seen all together, these endless permutations of blank/no-blank seem like a kind of language – of semaphore, perhaps, readable in the way that naval signalling flags are readable.

It is a commonplace of art criticism to describe abstract works (Mondrian's Boogie-Woogies, say) in terms of music, as though they were a visual translation of harmony and counterpoint. That is usually a mistake, and certainly would be in the case of Hanne Darboven. That she studied the piano before she studied art, and that the titular songs in 24 Gesänge (24 Songs) are both written down in a notation of Darboven's own inventing and played on a cathedral organ is, in a sense, a red herring. What the Gesänge do is to take another system into another medium, to exult once again in the beauty and oddity of man's need to define. The cross-dressing Darboven, dead three years ago at the age of 69, was an extraordinary woman, her house filled with junk, her works, when its walls were full, hung on the ceiling. Some of these she ascribed to her pet sheep, Mama Micky and Klein Micky. As you'd expect, this is an extraordinary show. See it, and hear it, if you possibly can.

To 18 March (020-7472 5500)

Next Week:

Charles Darwent sees David Shrigley at the Hayward Gallery

Art Choice

The artistic influence of arrivals to Britain from Van Dyck to John Singer Sargent and Naum Gabo is celebrated in a new show, Migrations, at Tate Britain (Tue to 15 Aug). Today is the last chance to see the exhibition dedicated to Adolphe Valette, the Impressionist whose vision of Manchester captivated his pupil L S Lowry (Lowry Galleries, Salford).

Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Go figure: Matt Parker, wearing the binary code scarf knitted by his mother
comedy Mathematician is using comedy nights to teach and preach sums
Arts and Entertainment
Ryan Gosling in 'Drive'
filmReview: Ryan Gosling is still there, but it's a very different film
Arts and Entertainment
Urban explorer: Rose Rouse has documented her walks around Harlesden, and the people that she’s encountered along the way
books Rouse's new book discusses her four-year tour of Harlesden
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Aida' at Milan's famed La Scala opera house
operaLegendary opera director in battle with theatre over sale of one of his 'greatest' productions
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
art
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
art
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin
books

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

books
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

    Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
    The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

    Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

    Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
    Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

    What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

    Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
    A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

    Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

    Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
    Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

    'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

    A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

    Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

    The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
    Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

    Paul Scholes column

    Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
    Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

    Frank Warren column

    Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
    Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

    Adrian Heath's American dream...

    Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
    Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

    Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes