Last year Princeton published this collection of Roni Horn's Iceland writings. The cover image beneath the yellow titles is one of 23 visual editorials she published in 2002 for the weekly culture supplement of Iceland's national daily newspaper (you can see the pinkish paper and newsprint showing through from the next page). It is an interesting choice for a cover as you might expect them to have used one of Roni Horn's photographs, but then this is a collection of her writings. Reading them with few of the familiar images of rocks, pools, icebergs and horizons puts more emphasis on the quality of her words. As a collection of brief reflections they reminded me of other kinds of poetic place writing I've enjoyed, like the Paul Claudel I highlighted here in May.
The section of Island Zombie covering her newspaper contributions includes some poignant longer pieces written twenty years ago, at a point when Iceland still had a choice over whether to preserve its landscape from development. The book also has a speech ('My Oz') and samples from her 'Weather Reports You' project in which Icelanders relay terrifying stories of high winds, treacherous seas and blizzards. But the bulk of the book is given over to writings that formed part of Horn's art practice, spanning her years in Iceland, beginning with the texts already published in To Place IV: Pooling Waters (1990-91) and adding others written during the last thirty years.
- On a foggy day in 1979 at Bakkafjörður, she discovered a white stone
among the dark rocks on the bank of a stream. The white was almost
transparent and it looked as if something dark lay within, a mystery.
Writing in 2018 she rolls the stone in the palm of her hand, 'whole,
complete, not a fragment of something else.' Over the course of her
lifetime, handling the stone, she herself has been a mildly erosive force and feels 'the softness and smoothness of this white rock intensifying
over years of intimacy.'
- At Dyrhólaey, where she lived for a time in the lighthouse, the cliffs form a city of birds. Approaching the edge, all is quiet but for the sound of the wind, until she reaches a point where suddenly the cacophony of bird sounds emerges, a noise that 'is part of the landscape here, like the bluff itself. It doesn't go away. When I arrive, I become the audience for this geologically scaled performance.'
- Standing on the mountain Kerlingarfjöll one warm evening she finds the atmosphere focuses the view like a lens, with everything visible through the thin air. 'Looking around I can see the ocean way out there, in all directions,' she says, reminding me of a magical flight of fantasy in Virginia Woolf's Orlando. She can see each pebble and flower, each lava field and river, simultaneously and without hierarchy. The way the landscape is taking shape is visible in its boiling water, lava fields and tectonic plates and all of this 'takes you one step deeper, beyond appearance, beyond the simple visibility of things.'