Friday, August 14, 2015

Roni Horn's "Library of Water"

"Big enough to get lost on. Small enough to find myself. That's how to use this island. I come here to place myself in the world. Iceland is a verb and its action is to center."  Roni Horn

For Library of Water, Roni Horn selected 24 glaciers throughout Iceland (many of them came from the rugged interior). Drivers traveled to the locations and chipped off the ice. In Stykkishólmur, Horn melted the chunks and poured the water into the columns. Today, sediment collects at the bottom of the golden hued bases. The floors of the space are rubber and contain adjectives in English and Icelandic describing the weather. There is also a library containing many of Horn's publications.

Horn was quoted that she wanted the space to be "a lighthouse in which the viewer becomes the light." This is most evident in the empty circular room overlooking the small town on the wharf. This is the domineering view that one has once removing shoes and quietly padding around in white slippers. It was also here that I wondered whether or not the landscape outside the windows overwhelmed the artwork. At first I thought it played an equal role but the more time I spent in the space, I wanted to view the sea beyond the building through the glass windows or the columns themselves. The tall containers were secondary and a more subtle presence.

The shape of the columns and the front window are also reminiscent of the curvature of a lighthouse. I would soon think of the clear pillars as beacons, warning humans of global warming as the land they approach becomes more distant.

The glass columns are illuminated from underneath drawing attention to floating matter that one might not want to spend considerable time examining. "Chilly," "brisk," and "frigid" were three words I gravitated to photographing most. Ann Hamilton's commission for the Seattle Public Library also came to mind in terms of an installation in a similarly functioning locale with text on the floor.

The tops of the cylinders were mounted like this. The reflections were deceiving as they made the ceiling look as soft as cushions. I wish I could have seen photographic evidence of Horn pouring melted glacier water into a structure this tall.

I took many photographs of the distortions the water caused with the view outside.

The above photograph was found in a press notebook in the room designated for Horn's publications (forgive the reflections as everything here was difficult to photograph). It features Horn sitting amongst the containers of glacial melt before they were installed. This image screams isolation (yet indoors) and contemplation. With that in mind, Horn's quote found in the Library of Water catalog is fitting to reproduce here:

"I go north. It's in my nature. But it turns out that the vast majority of people go south. To the sun and the heat and perhaps the more social nature of life in southern climes...."

"... The desire to go north is an attraction to solitude, open space, subtle expressions of light and time. Vast expressions of scale and horizon. Sometimes going north is about whiteness..."

"...Sometimes it is about darkness. I'm attracted to the darkness, it relieves me of the incessant call to visual attention - it opens interior spaces that offer untold possibilities of discovery..."


"...This darkness is really another form of light."

More than anything, I wanted to visit the Library of Water to see how the water specimen was treated as an art installation. How did it function with its surroundings? How much text was used to describe the intent? How was it constructed and with what materials? How did viewers walk through the space and interact with the forms? I wish I could say it was this summer's transformative art viewing experience but sadly it was not (Akhob still wins that prize). It was important to see in person, however, as it answered many of my questions above. I will never forget peering through the glacial melt to see the whale watching boats depart from the wharf below (always longing for what lies just beyond and never fully satisfied with what is at hand).

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