National Museum of Women in the Arts
Rebecca Horn
March 24 1944 - present
Photograph of Rebecca Horn, courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY, USA (c) Rebecca Horn
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
rheh-BEH-kah horn
Work Type/Media:
Multimedia (electronic, digital, video, film), Performance Art , Sculpture
Artistic Role(s):
Filmmaker, Installation Artist, Performance Artist, Sculptor, Video Artist
Artist's Biography:
Since the beginning of the 1970s, Rebecca Horn has been creating an oeuvre which constitutes an ever-growing flow of performances, films, sculptures, spatial installations, drawings and photographs. The essence of their imagery comes out of the tremendous precision of the physical and technical functionality she uses to stage her works each time within a particular space.

In the first performances, the body-extensions, she explores the equilibrium between body and space. In later works she replaces the human body with kinetic sculptures which take on their own life. Her new works define and cut through spaces with reflections of mirrors, light and music.

The objects used and specially made for her installations such as violins, suitcases, batons, ladders, pianos, feather fans, metronomes, small metal hammers, black water basins, spiral drawing machines and huge funnels together build the elements for kinetic sculptures that are liberated from their defined materiality and continuously transposed into ever-changing metaphors touching on mythical, historical, literary and spiritual imagery.

Her work is bound together by a consistency in logic; each new work appears to develop stringently from the preceding one. Elements may be readdressed, yet appear in totally different, divergent contexts. Following the physical experience of her performances with body extensions, masks and feather objects of the 1970s came the first kinetic sculptures featured in her films such as The Feathered Prison Fan in Der Eintänzer (1978), or The Peacock Machine in La Ferdinanda (1981).

In the 1980s and 1990s huge installations were created out of and dedicated to places charged with political and historical importance. With her kinetic sculptures, the artist releases and rediverts the weight of the past on these physical spaces: as for example in Concert in Reverse (1997) in Münster, where an old municipal tower turns out to be an execution site for the Third Reich: or in Vienna, with the Tower of the Nameless (1994), where she sets a monument to the refugees from Balkan states in the form of a tower with mechanically playing violins. In Weimar, the Concert for Buchenwald was composed on the premises of a former tram depot. The artist has layered 40 metre long walls of ashes behind glass, as archives of petrifaction. In Mirror of the Night (1998), at a derelict synagogue in Cologne, she uses the energy of writing, textured to counter historical amnesia.

To work with energy in this way can also mean to set the turbulence of passion as a magnetic flow into the space as we see in High Moon (1991) in New York or in El Rio de la Luna (1992) in Barcelona.

The circulatory systems of mercury pumps, atmospheric energies like sonorous structures or voiced lamentations, metamorphose in recent works into an incorporeity of space that is filled with newly generated energy: at an old monastery church on Majorca, in Moon Mirror (2003), the artist sets up an invisible yet tangible column of energy that spans the space between a rotating mirror on the floor and a vortex of light high up in the cupola.

The work Light Imprisoned in the Belly of the Whale (2002) is also part of this cycle of spatial and light installations. Out of wandering texts projected into a black basin of water, a golden staff writing in the water and the movement of the words around the space produce a myriad of new texts and images. Rebecca Horn opens up expanses of space, drawing her installations into dimensions that call for redefinition.

What is unique and continuously new about the work of this artist is that each single installation is a step towards breaking down completely the boundaries of space and time, opening up crevices to a universe, the existence of which we can only sense.

Rebecca Horn lives and works in Germany.

Biography courtesy of Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY, USA

Other Occupation(s):
Place(s) of Residence:
Place(s) of Activity:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Saint Martin's School of Art, London, England (1971-1972) Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Academy of Fine Arts), Hamburg, Germany (1964-1970) University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany (1963)
Related Visual Artists:
teacher of Elena Kovylina student of Kai Sudeck
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Trägerin des Kaiserrings Goslar, Goslar, Germany (1992) Carnegie Prize, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, USA (1988) Grant, Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), London, England (1971)
Earliest exhibition:
Documenta 5: Befragung der Realität, Bildwelten Heute - Prozesse, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (1972)
NMWA exhibition(s):
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Artist retrospective(s):
Bodylandscapes: Drawings, sculptures, installations 1964-2004, Hayward Gallery, London, England (2005) Rebecca Horn: The Inferno-Paradiso Switch, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA (1993) (traveling exhibition)