The Making of History

With Hanne Darboven.

a school of fish underwater

You could start by listing major events, key figures, compare best-of lists across the decades. But this has been done enough. What would happen if you omitted accepted distinctions between important and trivial, if you omitted the idea of progress itself?

You could try writing without an alphabet, using only numbers. These are democratic, unfettered by the weight of the ideologies of domination. With numbers, you can celebrate a belief in permutations.

Try it like this: fill room after room floor to ceiling with tiny panels: postcards, city views, tourist sites, greeting cards, illustrations from children’s books, photographs of artworks, of artists, of unnamed people. Present constellations of images instead of a neat line.

There will be no way to summarize what it is. What will matter about it will have to do with what happens between the images you present.

What happens?

Something breathes. It isn’t progress.


Inspired by Hanne Darboven’s “Kulturegeschichte 1880–1983” (“Cultural History 1880–1983”).

Author: Stacey C. Johnson

I keep watch and listen, mostly in dark places.

2 thoughts on “The Making of History”

  1. When I was in the Swedish army I was a cryptologist. We wrote in Morse code translated into numbers and alphabetical characters that in turn were turned into language using secret keys. I know that’s not what you mean but it put a distance between you and the writing like you are suggesting when writing in numbers.

    1. Thomas, that is fascinating. I am amazed by the work of cryptologists – Probably because I am always imagining secret keys everywhere 🙂 Happy new year to you!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: