Film Series for Rebecca Horn Fans

January 16, 2015
Still from Rebecca Horn’s film Der Eintänzer (The Gigolo), 1978. © Rebecca Horn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

If you’ve been intrigued by Rebecca Horn’s short films in the Harvard Art Museums’ University Research Gallery—Horn rhythmically scratching lines on a wall while wearing a “pencil mask,” or a woman walking through a field with a tall, hornlike attachment extending from the top of her head—then you’ll be transfixed by the contemporary German artist’s other films. Beginning this weekend, the museums will screen a selection of short and feature-length films by Horn, also recently acquired.

“These films demonstrate the interconnectedness of Horn’s work and complement both the special exhibition Rebecca Horn: “Work in Progress” in the University Research Gallery, and her new installation Flying Books under Black Rain Painting (2014), near the Prescott Street entrance,” said Lynette Roth, the Daimler-Benz Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum. “Film is an integral part of Horn’s artistic production. She embraced the medium from very early on and has continued to develop her use of it alongside sculpture, drawing, installations, and poetry.”

The screenings over the next three months feature a chronological selection of Horn’s films. All films will be shown in the museums’ state-of-the-art Menschel Hall, starting at 1pm. The events are free with museums admission.

The first screening, on Sunday, January 18, includes Performances 1 (1972), the artist’s compilation of some of her early short films, and Der Eintänzer (The Gigolo), her first feature-length film (1978).

Performances 1 is “critical to understanding the origin of Horn’s art in her early performances,” Roth said. Like the films shown in the University Research Gallery (the artist’s Performances 2 and Berlin Exercises), the themes explored in Performances 1—such as the exploration of the human body and the body in space, as well as gender roles—continually re-emerge throughout Horn’s oeuvre. The earliest of these short films were made using stop-action editing and feature a lone human subject, often nude. Others depict figures whose physical movement is limited by large or unwieldy “body extensions.”

Der Eintänzer (The Gigolo) is Horn’s first film with a cohesive narrative. Horn’s New York City studio serves as the site of various happenings and reveals a series of relationships, including those between a dance teacher and her young ballet students, but also between persons and objects. The film explores, as the artist mentions in a voiceover, “objects . . . which have already begun to exercise their new roles and possibilities.” A number of symbolic objects, such as an ostrich egg and feathers, as well as kinetic sculptures by the artist, are incorporated directly into the plot.

The next screening, on February 15, is of Buster’s Bedroom, a feature-length film made in 1990 that stars Donald Sutherland. The third and final screening, on March 15, is Moon Mirror Journey, a 2011 film produced in a documentary style. With a focus on Horn’s large-scale, often ephemeral projects and installations, it rounds out an understanding of the artist’s oeuvre and the role of her newly established Moontower Foundation.

Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

  • of Still from Rebecca Horn’s film Buster’s Bedroom, 1990. © Rebecca Horn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. 
  • of Still from Rebecca Horn’s film, The Universe in a Pearl. Installation at the Martin Gropius Bau Berlin, 2006. © Rebecca Horn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.