Roni Horn, an American visual and multi-media artist, widely recognised as one of the best conceptual artists of her generation, has spent most of her work life in Iceland, the ever-changing geography of which has inspired her immense volume of work in the form of books, sculptures and photographs. According to her, Iceland breaks her away from the conventional ties that a society tends to bind us in and when she is there, she is completely free and can feel her true identity. It would be safe to call Iceland her muse. Shifting landscapes, as Iceland is to her, is never constant. It keeps changing, turning into something new or different each time you look at it. As she says, its young and its growing and its ever-changing.
This whole idea is reinstated in all her works and none of her works are static in nature. They allow you to look at it from various angles and every time you look at it offers a different perspective. That she has been able to portray in her work what she observes in nature around her is commendable. It is understandable when a person spends as much time as she does being one on one with nature. Each moment is different, each view is different, no matter how many times you experience the same place. Her work impresses me for its simplicity and minimalism, its impact and being strikingly different than others. Of course, for me her heightened sense of the world or environment around her is an admirable quality.
Her works with water as a subject display extreme versatility. Her Library of Glacial Water in the town of Stykkishólmur, Iceland, for example, is an exemplary piece of art. The simplicity and grandness of the 24 water columns made of glass, each containing water from a different glacier, are not merely stationary pieces of installation but are ever changing in relation to the light around them, time of the day, the reflections they emit and so on. And that is what is mesmerising. Even the viewer who is viewing them has a different and unique experience every time. The real experience of being around in this human space must be beyond imagination when just imaging that space fills one with awe. Similarly, her works with River Thames put forward relation of water to various things around it, like light, changing times and reflections around, making each work appear dynamically different at any given time. That a viewer becomes a part of these installations and is drawn into it and takes away their own personal experiences is something that is really inspiring to me. And that the installation becomes something different when you walk away from it.
Even her other works, like the one being inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, sculpture and allusion, ant farm, etc. translate a simple idea into something so interesting. It’s like being on the inside and experiencing it instead of just viewing it as an outsider. It’s timeless and ever changing.
“We tend to think of landscapes as affecting us most strongly when we are in them or on them, when they offer us the primary sensations of touch and sight. But there are also the landscapes we bear with us in absentia, those places that live on in memory long after they have withdrawn in actuality, and such places — retreated to most often when we are most remote from them — are among the most important landscapes we possess.” – Robert Macfarlane(Macfarlane, 2012)
Key points and learnings from Horn’s works-
- All encompassing
- Being one with nature
Fig 1 Horn, R. (2007) A Library Of Glacial Water In Iceland. [Photograph] At: https://hyperallergic.com/226116/a-library-of-glacial-water-in-iceland/ (Accessed 14/04/2020).
Editors, A. (2017) “Iceland Could Have Been Anywhere”: Roni Horn On How To Be Present Amidst Shifting Landscapes. Available at: https://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/book_report/roni-horn-phaidon-54896 (Accessed 14/04/2020).
Iceland, W. (2020) Library Of Water: Visit West Iceland. At: https://www.west.is/en/inspiration/services/library-of-water (Accessed 14/04/2020).
Stanford Libraries (2020) To Place: Roni Horn’s Iceland. At: https://library.stanford.edu/art/exhibitions/place-roni-horns-iceland (Accessed 14/04/2020).
Steinhauer, J. (2015) A Library Of Glacial Water In Iceland. At: https://hyperallergic.com/226116/a-library-of-glacial-water-in-iceland/ (Accessed 14/04/2020).