How does Rebecca Horn challenge the possibilities of human anatomy?

tatiana By Tatiana Samoylova, Tax, People Advisory Services

Rebecca Horn, a visual artist from Germany born in 1944, has some of her most prominent work displayed in a permanent exhibition at Tate Modern, London.  When you enter the room you immediately notice that her work is not limited to paintings only, but include a wide range of media, like performance art, sculpture, film and installation art. A small screen in the room showing videos of various performances by Rebecca will help you to appreciate her work to its fullest.

Horn 1

The vast majority of art pieces are body suits that at first sight are not so obvious on how to be used/worn. For example, the most famous work of Rebecca is “Einhorn” (Unicorn), a body suit, in the form of a tall horn. This piece of work is shown in the film, made by Rebecca, in which a woman walks through a countryside with the ‘Unicorn’ attached to her head together with straps around her body. Horn wrote: ‘the performance took place in early morning – still damp, intensely bright – the sun more challenging than any audience… her consciousness electrically impassioned; nothing could stop her trance-like journey: in competition with every tree and cloud in sight…and the blossoming wheat caressing her hips’. The Unicorn can also be interpreted as a medieval symbol for purity, chastity and innocence.

Horn 2

Feathers are another material often used by Horn in art. One of her works is the head extensions covered with feathers. In a powerful yet delicate video (displayed in the same room), a man and a woman, through repetitive movements of their heads, gently rub the attached feathers against each other. The video is tender, pure and very intimate. Full of repetitive motion.

Horn 3

As you walk across the room, you start noticing some common features in the work of Rebecca: poetical/mythological figures, connection with the animal world/nature, and also the sculptural aspect of body extensions. Feathers, wings, the unicorn, each show the connection between human and animal, pure feelings in their highest form, the regained connection between nature and body. It feels as if that regained energy is drawn from getting out of the body via the extension of various body parts.  Mystical, meditative, repetitive; it’s as if Horn is trying to capture the moment, concentrate on it and experience those feelings to their fullest.

Rebecca Horn is part of the permanent collection at Tate Modern. EY employees receive free access to all exhibitions at Tate.