Hanne Darboven and Gerhard Richter are authors of two monumental archival projects, Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983 (1980-83) and Atlas (1962-today). Ordered according to the form of the atlas of images, they both evoke the notion of heterotopia given by Michel Foucault, and become spaces where what is distant dialogues with what is close, where the visible relates to the invisible or unnoticed, with virtually no scale of value or duration. The viewer is therefore invited to travel through space and time with a look which is both contemplative and active, in search of correspondences among elements sometimes very heterogeneous and not immediately easy to disclose. However, the use of amateur photographs, on the one hand, and that of readymade images – often accompanied by a personal type of abstract writing –, on the other, make Richter's Atlas and Darboven's Kulturgeschichte two universally legible works, where the evidence of the private living of the two artists is part of a broader historical and cultural memory, that of the 20th Century. As Postmodern artists, Darboven and Richter are aware that being able to depict the world, and consequently also the story in its entirety, is a utopia, but they do not give up: they both deal with an enterprise which is comparable, in size and breadth, to that of Sisyphus. The power and poetic beauty of the two projects eventually lies in their authors' huge alacrity, which persists, with dedication and determination, day after day, despite everything else.
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