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Rebecca Horn

Bodylandscape – Schwarzer Schwan – Weißer Schwan


“The body spreads out its antennas far from itself, circling in lines, testing a state of abeyance white as snow.”

Rebecca Horn (born 1944) is considered one of the most distinguished German artists. From the early 1970s on her oeuvre merged into a constantly swelling stream of performances, films, sculptural room installations, kinetic objects, drawings and collages and often lingers in the bordering areas between different artistic disciplines. She continuously tries out new forms of expression, partly recollecting Surrealism and Dadaism but also focusing on contemporary artistic currents like Arte Povera, Fluxus and Conceptual Art.

The human body usually makes up the focus of her works. Her room compositions, which portray minimalistic kinetic structures as main actors and generate their fascination from the symbiosis of high-precision mechanics and exceptional materials like exotic bird feathers, butterfly wings or musical instruments are particularly famous.

The field of tension between differing poles as for example the dialectic of time and space, material and significance, history and presence, passivity and activity, spontaneity and control, or eroticism and aggression is characteristic for her work. Motives and abrupt switches of perception levels of the realistic, fantastic and grotesque are typical.

The artist lives in Berlin and the Odenwald. Her work has been exhibited worldwide since the 1970s: Documenta, Kassel, Germany (1972, ’77, ’82, ’92); Venice Biennale (1979, ’80, ’86, 97); ”Skulpturen-Projekte” (Sculpture-Projects), Münster, Germany (1987, ’97). The 1993 retrospective at the New York Guggenheim Museum and the exhibition „Bodylandscapes“ at the Fundação Centro Cultural de Belém in Lisbon and the Hayward Gallery in London from 2005 deserve special recognition. In 2006 the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin exhibited her work with ”Rebecca Horn. Zeichnungen, Skulpturen, Installationen, Filme 1964 – 2006” (Rebecca Horn. Drawings, installations, films 1964 – 2006). In addition to that, the artist was awarded various important art prizes and in 1992 was the first woman to receive the ”Goslar Kaiserring”.

Horn’s drawings as well as her photographs, collages and graphic prints have only in recent years earned higher recognition. ”Schwarzer Schwan – weißer Schwan“ (black swan – white swan) from 2004 is part of the series of ”Bodylandscapes“, which Horn has been creating since 2004 and which impress due to their large formats of 180x151cm. These large dimensions demand an active involvement of the entire body while creating them and Horn takes up the theme of her initial body plastics by doing so. One example is her unveiling and covering her body with large circular wings until it seemed surrounded by an aura. She herself points out, ”I thought about a way to catch soul structures. About a way to bring them to a two-dimensional level.”

The artist uses different materials like ink, lead or coloured pencils, special tinctures or even red wine in her drawings. For her they are an aesthetic refuge, which allows fantasies to run wild and open up new spheres of inspiration. This also becomes obvious in her expressive gesture. The titles sometimes provide concrete hints and sometimes they are important indicators for the artist herself, ”I can anchor them in a world system or in the system I work in, in my own little universe.”

Horn describes her artistic production process when drawing as follows, ”In these drawings, which equal my body radius, the first mark leads up to a quiet agreement with the pencil line, dividing the paper, organizes it to new forms, every line explaining its existence to the next one. Discards, catches, plays with, destroys, empties, drags under, spirals upwards into the light, catches fire, melts, flies like ashes, claws into the tail of the Fox Star, burns up in glowing red and lowers itself deep into the roots of the paper.“

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