While for Jules Verne, Iceland was the gateway to the center of the Earth, for Roni Horn it is the site of an introspective journey, through which the artist positions herself in the world. Since 1975 she has made several visits to the island country with migratory regularity and each new voyage has gradually brought to light a correspondence between her inner geography and the geography of this extreme land. Pooling You, 1996–97, is a series of photographs, created in homage to Verne. In these images, views of waves of primordial force alternate with close-ups of the water, at such close range that they become abstract.
The complex metaphorical value of water is the subject of many of Horn’s works. “Watching the water, I am stricken with vertigo of meaning. Water is the final conjugation: an infinity of form, relation, and content. (I never know where I’m standing when I’m standing by the river).” These words by the artist belong to the commentary that makes up part of Still Water (The River Thames, for Example), 1999. Horn created the work, comprising photographs accompanied by texts, during a stay in England, in response to an encounter with the waters of the Thames. To Horn, the river appeared as cryptic as an obscure language that can contain a multiplicity of meanings, and she took numerous photographs that capture aspects of the water not easily seen by the naked eye. Like other rivers, the Thames, in fact, is characterized by dark, turbulent and polluted waters, through which it is difficult to see. The flow of thoughts unleashed by visits to the river is the subject of the accompanying texts, written by the artist in the form of numbered notes, which expound on specific points for each image. Composed as aphorisms and colloquial jottings, the texts contain numerous references to literature, film, and music, involving viewers in a continuous play of references. As in all Horn’s works, which include different media, such as drawing and sculpture, the experience of the observer is a fundamental element in the work of this artist, who is interested in the process of discovery linked to each new encounter.
The diptych Untitled# 3 (Mature gannet), 1999, consists of two color photographs depicting a detail of the head of a large seabird, typical of the north of Scotland. Similar to other Horn’s works, the two images seem alike yet different, according to a process of recognition that involves the viewer in situated experience.