Shifter: Roni Horn

If conscience is a placid lake, and our subconscious a network of rivers beneath rivers, adrift in these deep waters is probably a fierce psychological need for the presence of water to be comforting. Roni Horn has worked with water as a subject, in capacities of solace and sorrow but mostly, it’s the inherent qualities of water that emerge in her work(1). Temporality, mutability, reflection: more than any other medium or aesthetic, these shifting states are the true material.

Horn has employed photography, drawings, sculpture, installation, mixed media, and yet: none of these disciplines describe the totality of her vision. A profoundly conceptual artist, Horn has four pieces currently at New York’s The FLAG Art Foundation. The show is named after the enigmatic gold wall sculpture (Double Mobius) and includes another sculpture (Pink Around) and two sets of photographic works (This is You, This is Me and Puff).

Roni Horn, Pink Around, 2008. Solid cast pink glass, with as-cast surfaces on all sides (fire-polished top) 40" diameter; 14.5" height. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zurich. © Roni Horn, photograph courtesy Flag Art Foundation.
Roni Horn, Pink Around, 2008. Solid cast pink glass, with as-cast surfaces on all sides (fire-polished top) 40″ diameter; 14.5″ height. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zurich. © Roni Horn, photograph courtesy Flag Art Foundation.

On a physical level, is there anything more redundant than water? Without it we cannot exist. Thoughts, perception—the interior pools of reflection that accompany a physical being—are they not quite excessive when imagined as a collective weight?  In serene but valiant play with texture and material, Horn reduces concepts of redundancy and excess, revealing them as illuminating.  A solid pink glass sculpture is both abrasive around the edges but soft to the touch on its top surface. This floor sculpture is Pink Around. It poses as many questions about reflection as it does about aberration.

“Invisible continuity is intrinsic to water. This continuity exceeds us even while being the biggest part of us. It’s this continuity that makes our effect on water an effect on us.”—Roni Horn2

Roni Horn, Double Mobius, 2009. Fine Gold, 2.5 x 30 x 2” (overall). © Roni Horn, photograph by Roni Horn Studio.
Roni Horn, Double Mobius, 2009. Fine Gold, 2.5 x 30 x 2” (overall). © Roni Horn, photograph by Roni Horn Studio.

Double Mobius is Horn’s third sculpture in gold, engaging the viewer at eye-level. Gold ribbons in the shape of a mobius strip: a geometric form that appears to have two sides, but only has one. The gallery has termed the beguiling effect of this sculpture as “a simultaneous impression of intimacy and infinity.”  Working with pairs has been a theme for Horn, I’m sure it’s no accident that Double Mobius is situated across from Pink Around.

Between these two works is This Is You, This Is Me, a series of close-up photographs of Horn’s niece: ninety six photographs of Georgina’s expressions and explorations of identity. Fitting the concept of doubles, Georgina looks remarkably like Horn herself, in younger days. This Is You, This Is Me occupies two walls facing each other, placing viewers between very elastic gazes. Another consistent theme of Horn’s work is obvious with this piece: gender, identity, androgyny. Specifically, in how style, posture and gaze steer identification and perception. It’s unfortunate that the book This Is You, This Is Me is not also on display at the gallery. If it were, viewers could see how the book itself was created in loop form: after reaching the last page, the reader turns the book around and begins again.