Iceland Iceland

Roni Horn Man at hot spring, Strútur, Iceland 1990 Photograph of mountainous landscape with hot springs and a man paddling in pools

Roni Horn
Man at hot spring, Strútur, Iceland 1990
From To Place: Pooling Waters, #IV (Verlag der Buchhundlung Walther König, Köln, 1994)
Collection of the artist
© The artist

 Roni Horn Rationalists Would Wear Sombreros 1990 map of Iceland with text added to it.text

Roni Horn
Rationalists Would Wear Sombreros 1990
Graphite on washed special-edition print from To Place: Bluff Life (Peter Blum Edition, New York, 1990), 254 x 305 mm
Collection of the artist
© Roni Horn

Horn has visited Iceland regularly since 1975. ‘Iceland taught me to taste experience’, she has said. ‘That’s possible here, because of the intensely physical nature of experience on this island.’ Elsewhere she writes that ‘Iceland is a verb and its action is to center’, suggesting that she is interested in Iceland’s affect rather than its spectacular tourist appeal.

Since 1990 Horn has published a series of volumes collectively titled To Place, which are displayed in Room 11 alongside related photographs and drawings on maps. The books address the ‘relationship between identity and place’, and present Horn’s texts as well as photographs of rocks, sheep folds, hot pools, geysers, mountains, glacial rivers and birds – all features of the Icelandic landscape. Subjects, genres, and image types shift from one book to the next so that To Place becomes an anti-archive, and each new publication alters the identity of the series.

In the two most recent publications, Horn has broken apart the standard structure of the book. Becoming a Landscape (Book VIII) 2001 is a book in two parts featuring pairs of images of geysers and a young person’s face taken, and necessarily viewed, moments apart. Doubt Box (Book IX) 2006 is a collection of cards rather than a bound volume. Printed on both sides, the cards show pictures of glacial water, taxidermied birds, and of the same face, a little older. The sequence of images here is determined by chance and the reader’s desire.

Shaped by volcanic activity, Iceland’s geography and geology is continually changing, and given the importance of mutability to her thinking, it is a place to which Horn is deeply attracted: ‘Iceland is always becoming what it will be, and what it will be is not a fixed thing either.’ She is also fascinated by the changeable and dramatic weather in Iceland, and by the way that the language used to describe weather so often suggests moral and sexual aspects of humanity as well. Room 11 is carpeted by a rubber floor, You are the Weather (London) 2008, upon which weather words can be discerned through the touch of one’s feet.