(Dis)Orientation: Identity, Landscape and Embodiment in the work of Roni Horn
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis considers the links between identity and landscape in key works by American artist Roni Horn, focusing on a selection of her photo-installations and books. In particular it argues that Horn approaches landscape as a performative category through which to address the performativity of identity, and that in doing so her work privileges the viewer as an embodied participant. Drawing on a feminist approach grounded in phenomenology, the thesis locates androgyny as a key structuring principle in the artist’s work. Identifying herself as neither male nor female, Horn employs the notion of in-between-ness to negotiate gender binaries of male/female and to describe the indeterminate and contingent nature of androgynous being. Importantly, the thesis argues that Horn addresses these issues of identity by staging experiences in her work that invite the viewer to perform the very processes by which identity is defined and played out. This strategy is examined through concepts of doubling, the sublime, horizons and dwelling, each of which in their own way involve a sense of orientation and disorientation that gestures toward the in-between-ness of androgyny.
The thesis also considers the tensions between visuality and embodiment in Horn’s work. Her use of photographic images within an installation practice is one that establishes a complex set of relations between the opticality of the photograph and the actuality of ‘real’ space. It is argued that the experiential potential of Horn’s photo-installations and books is only realised through the dialectical relation between visuality and embodiment in which both are equally privileged.