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Rebecca Horn

German Sculptor, Filmmaker and Performance Artist

Rebecca Horn Photo

Born: 24 March 1944 - Michelstadt, Germany

"Looking back at my first pieces you always see a kind of cocoon, which I used to protect myself. Like the fans where I can lock myself in, enclose myself, then open and integrate another person into an intimate ritual. This intimacy of feeling and communication was a central part of the performances."

Summary of Rebecca Horn

Rebecca Horn has a longstanding interest in the creation of magical objects, which she infuses with both tenderness and pain. Her work looks back to alchemical explorations by the female Surrealists, and forward to large-scale contemporary, poetic, and mechanical sculptures. During childhood Horn endured the chaotic aftermath of post-war Germany and felt unnerved by her father's highly imaginative but frightening stories. In early adulthood, like Frida Kahlo, Horn experienced a profound change in direction and surge of inspiration following an extended illness. Also bed ridden, Horn started making soft sculptures with materials she could work with whilst recovering. Thus although the artist suffered from physical collapse, this was followed by a re-birth of sorts and in turn a heightened understanding of her own spiritual capacity and that of others. As result, Horn always makes art that "extends" outwards to best communicate with others. To this day, she lives within the rich and private, whilst paradoxically, transparent and revealing, real fantasy world that she has created for herself.

Key Ideas

Rebecca Horn is one of few incredibly insightful artists to make visibly clear that humans are literally more than they appear. The artist's 'body extension' pieces very cleverly display internal happenings on the outside of the body. As such, these sculptures serve to help viewers understand difficult emotions and have a therapeutic impact. They are also at once sculptures in their own right as well as being part of a performance; this was an unusual artistic development during the 1960s and 70s, and shows effective combination of very different media, one tangible and one ephemeral.
Horn constantly addresses the balance between psychological states of heaviness and lightness in her artwork. As a constant exploration of anxiety and depression and the human capacity to deal with such states of being, the artist has said that one of her goals at the beginning of her career was to fight "loneliness by dealing with bodily forms". When locked in constant dialogue with the mind, Horn reveals that working with the body (and indeed the process of art making) brings balance.
The artist's interest in sound and in combining musical instruments in visual pieces reveal her desire to combine and dissolve difference rather than to create separation. She makes work that is at once poetic and scientific and as such brings forth her belief in the interrelatedness of all things. She introduces sound to her pieces to suggest to the viewer that they approach art more like music, that they do not agonise and try to understand, but instead that they 'listen' and experience an intuitive response.
Most of Horn's works, especially early sculptures, as well as making profound comments about the human body existing in space, are often reminiscent of torture apparatuses. As such, and in particular the artist's large-scale installations, the work deals with war, and the injustice of cruelty and violence. Horn makes it utterly clear that her work goes beyond the personal to also exhibit full commitment to the political, and most importantly, to forever act as a counter force to dangerous historical amnesia.
Rebecca Horn Photo

Rebecca Horn was born in the midst of war, in 1944 in Michelstadt, Hesse, Germany. While Horn has not discussed her childhood or family in depth, introducing only snippets, we know that her parents were industrialists and her uncle - to whom she was close - was an artist. She has expressed a deep love for the Romanian governess who looked after her as a young child recalling that it was the governess who spent much time drawing with her at around three or four years old. Growing up in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War affected Horn greatly, and as such the experience penetrates many of her artworks to come. After the war, Horn and her fellow Germans could hardly speak their own language because, blamed for the atrocities of the older generation, they had become a hated people. Horn learnt to speak both French and English but she preferred drawing as a way to communicate that remained untainted and universal.

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