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Rebecca Horn is a contemporary artist from Germany who specializes in sculpture, with some paintings now and then. Her works of art often portray either the human body in “motion,” or Sculptures representing human consciousness, isolation, & vulnerability. The inspiration for her sculptures most likely came about during her subsequent period of staying in a sanatorium due to her being poisoned from using certain sculpture materials which had ultimately made her develop a lung condition in 1968. She has been since turned to using soft materials that were reminiscent of bandages and prosthesis. Later on in her sculptures, Horn would then begin to use small motors in her sculptures to reminisce movement. An example of these would be her “Butterfly Series”.
But let’s begin to get to know her first. Rebecca Horn was born in Germany on March 24th, 1944, a year before the end of World War II. Up until 1871, Horn had lived in Hamburg, Germany and then briefly in London, England and before finally moving to West Berlin in 1973. In the same year, she created her first film known as the Berlin Exercise: Dreaming Underwater, a filmed which earned her the Deutscher KritikerPreis two years later. But her career in filming didn’t end there because by 1978, Horn had made her first feature-length film known as Der Eintanzer and in 1990, a film called Buster’s Bedroom, a full-length feature film that had starred Hollywood actor Donald Sutherland.
Over the past two decades, Horn has expanded the vocabulary of her installations to directly manipulate the specific effects of mirror and light, while simultaneously experimenting with paint machines, poetry, postcard collages, and drawing. For example, during the 1980s and 90s, Horn was working with site-specific installations that would respond directly to the places that had great social and political significance. Often times these was a highly sensitive location where war crimes had been committed. Two example installations would be her Concert in Reverse as well as the Concert for Buchenwald. These installations were the result of the haunting responses to the former Nazi execution site and the other to a former tram depot.
In 1992, Horn to become the first woman ever to receive the prestigious Tragerin des Kaiserrings Goslar award and was also awarded the Medienkunst Preis Karlsruhe for her achievements in technology and art. By 1993, Horn had traveled throughout Europe and America debuting her works in exhibitions.
By the year 2000, Horn would address the impact that her vocative artworks would have on the public. To her, she sees that she has been given a role to expose a problem that exists in a place or social situation that she feels should be open for discussion. She understands that many people experience her as a destructive and potentially unwelcome force as she is always thought be challenging at prevailing cultural facts or norms. Horn’s belief is rooted in her assurance that artists have an important political role in society.
Time and time again, Horn would often approach themes that were often present in mythology and fairy tales, such as transformations, discovering a secret world of the fae and supernatural, the use of alchemy, and the interest in using body machines. The materials that she uses throughout her art pieces commonly were feathers, binoculars, mirrors, butterflies pigments, and musical instruments. As mentioned before, Horn begins to use small motors in her sculptures to imitate movement. Sometimes they seemed to be unnatural.
Her “Butterfly Series” as mentioned briefly uses small motors between two iridescent (and real) butterfly wings to simulate butterflies flight pattern. She was in some towns places them within a glass container and just lets it do its thing. This was because motion and its spatial impact played an important role in her works Serifina’s Lover, Schmetterling, & Butterfly Sculpture, and the agitated installations would allow others to question common sense of place; all are simultaneously linked and seemed to evolve from one another. Austin Considine from “Art in America’ had said that the mechanisms that activate such movements in her work though plainly visible, it seems to still ignite one’s paranormal and vaguely phenomenal imaginations of igniting the space between the varied material elements. It feels like sparks firing in the dreaming brain.
Rebecca Horn’s installations and sculptures have made one of the most distinguished female artists in the modern era. Her metaphysical and exploratory spirit that was fostered since she was a young girl, has helped her develop her and her artwork into surreal masterpieces. Valentina Ravaglia, the Tate Modern Curator, has described her as “perhaps the most arguably first artist-turned-feature filmmaker of the post-war generation”. Horn’s films have demonstrated her ambitious desire to disrupt the familiar ways of how people think about the human body, human relationships, as well as the world. Artist who have also addressed the Holocaust consider Horn as an important figure in the generation. Thanks to her experience in growing up in post-war Germany, Horn has developed a powerful artistic language that speaks out for social and political change in a positive way.
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