Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hot Pot at Strútur

The new issue of Tate etc. includes a piece by Roni Horn. Few artists write as well and I think we can assume she didn't come up with the silly title for the article! She discusses her footnoted photographs of the River Thames, which I've mentioned here before and which I think must be one of the best contemporary art works about London. She also talks about Iceland and relates her experiences to The Swimmer, played by Burt Lancaster in the film of John Cheever's story. On a simple level, the way the character experiences his environment is bound to be inspiring for landscape artists, and was the basis for the Roger Deakin book Waterlog. But Roni Horn also talks about the vulnerability of the swimmer and the way the Icelandic landscape offers a mixture of bleak emptiness and sheltering protection.

"I first went to Iceland in 1975. I travelled with a tent, hitchhiking and walking, then on a motorcycle, but still with a tent. So I was outside most of the time, and I often found myself heading for the hot springs. They became a kind of shelter. They took the form of hot pots or swimming pools. Sometimes they are located in remote places, so I found myself pool-hopping to these exquisite faraway places and spending a lot of time in the middle of nowhere, outside, in hot water. It struck me at the time as a great combination. When I look back, I am reminded of Burt Lancaster in the film called The Swimmer. He is divorced and having had the time of his life for years, he now wants to go home; he's alone. And so he is swimming home, pool-hopping home, and home is somewhere in suburban Connecticut. And you watch him going from one backyard to the next. He was in a swimsuit throughout the whole film and you felt his sensitivity to everything, and his vulnerability. So here I am, looking for shelter. and those pools were a great form of shelter. I was in these amazing settings, way out there in the thick of it, so to speak, alone but protected. Sometimes in the middle of a desert. For me, a desert is confrontational in a way, because it's so dogmatic. But here it was a totally sensual experience. And that happened a lot in Iceland, where you were in places that you would normally associate with difficult, aggressive things and they became alluring and attractive, comforting really."

The cover of the excellent Phaidon book on Roni Horn, showing the Hot Pot at Strútur (1991)


aureliaray said...

Gordon Burn provides an interesting discussion of Roni Horn’s work in Iceland in the Saturday Guardian of 2 June 2007. Sadly we were unable to visit Stykkisholmur on a trip to Iceland as the swirling mists and rain forced a detour: ‘The weather is constant in its indifference to us and unpredictable in every other way’ (Roni Horn, quoted in the article). In 2003 we drove up from Reykjavik, following the indented coastline, and we later noted in our journal: ‘there was a feeling of tranquility and timelessness as we drove around the fjords seemingly devoid of human life. We were now driving through misty rain and it was difficult to make out the dramatic shape of Kirkjufell, a mountain originally called Sugarloaf by the Danish traders, just by Grundarfjordur. As the weather was so poor there was general agreement not to go on to Stykkisholmur.’

Plinius said...

Thanks for this... I'd love to visit that part of Iceland myself. Interesting to see another article about Roni Horn (this Guardian article is here). I guess the reason there's been some coverage of this exhibition in the British media is that it is sponsored by Artangel - see their site here .