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Concert for Anarchy
Photo: Gregor Titze


Blood in the Veins

Rebecca Horn, 77, is one of the best-known German artists: She has built machines that puff up their feathers like peacocks, hung pianos from the ceiling and dressed people in costumes with tubes. Her work is both poetic and brutal. The Kunstforum Wien is hosting a major exhibition from 28th September to 23rd January 2022.

Bettina M. Busse, the curator of the exhibition, got to know Rebecca Horn as a student in the mid-1990s in Berlin when Horn was a professor at the University of the Arts. “She was an unbelievable apparition with her red hair. A real diva“, recalls Busse, who tells you here exclusively which five works you must not miss.

Curator Bettina M. Busse
Photo: Natalie Würnitzer

1. Concert for Anarchy, 1990

A spectacular work. The keys regularly fall out and play notes. This piano is also strongly related to Rebecca Horn’s cinematic work. It appears in her last major feature “Busters Bedroom”, which is about a young woman who is fascinated by the star of silent film, Buster Keaton. The central theme of our exhibition in the Kunstforum is the relationship between Horn’s cinematic work and her sculptures and installations. This is particularly clearly demonstrated by this piano. In the film, however, rather than hanging from the ceiling it is being played by one of the protagonists. In this scene, sheet music lies on the floor before being sent flying through the room by a gust of wind.

Concert for Anarchy
Photo: Gregor Titze

2. Concerto dei Sospiri, 1997

This work was created for the Venice Biennale. She was one of the main artists that year and occupied a huge space. This installation consists of rubble and pallets from dilapidated buildings in Venice. The copper funnels emit sound but, rather than music, this consists of whispering-like noises in a number of languages. Noises that resemble wails and sighs, encouraging us to do some soul-searching. This work has an incredibly poetic and melancholic quality. On the other hand, we have this material that is raw and brutal. She really loves combining such contradictions. There is sadness, grievance and brutality in this world. But, at the same time, there is also beauty.

Exhibition Rebecca Horn at Bank Austria Kunstforum, Photo: Gregor Titze

3. Überströmer, 1970

An early work that was intended for a performance. Behind, one sees a photo of a young man. He stands there, connected to the tubes, red water flows, one immediately thinks of blood. As if his veins were on the outside. We are also showing three films that bring together Rebecca Horn’s performances, which were particularly important in her early phase. There are some in which she appears herself, but she mostly leaves the performing to others. Incidentally, Rebecca Horn was the youngest female artist at documenta in 1972, after which she established herself at every level. She was one of few women to do this successfully back then. And she never allowed herself to be captured by a single artistic genre. She is a highly independent, freedom-loving spirit with a strong political position.

Photo: Gregor Titze

4. High Moon, 1991

An installation that very dramatically raises the subject of interpersonal relationships: It addresses eroticism, hate and love. She tells us that the guns symbolise desire. They point at each other and fire regularly. Then there is a loud explosion. She is very interested in machines in general. And this certainly also has something to do with her love for Buster Keaton and silent cinema, in which objects have a greater significance, precisely because nothing is said. They were loaded with so much more meaning. Rebecca Horn is a pioneer due to the fact that the objects leave her films and become part of the exhibition. In art, it is usually the other way round.

High Moon
Photo: Gregor Titze

5. Die Pfauenmaschine, 1981

An icon in her work, of which there are many variations, one even without feathers. In that case, only the tips can be seen. This Pfauenmaschine (Peacock Machine) from 1981 gives a great performance in the film “La Ferdinanda. Sonate für eine Medici-Villa”, moving around the room and puffing out its feathers. It is this incredible theatricality that explains Horn’s fascination with this animal.

Die Pfauenmaschine
Photo: Gregor Titze