Known for her elegant delineations of identity, perception and place, Roni Horn is one of the major artists working in the Minimal lineage today. Drawing from the likes of Donald Judd, Robert Morris and Richard Serra, Horn’s work responds to the Minimalist reliance on phenomenology and the way physical art objects interact with the viewer in a particular place and time. Created to be site-specific, Horn’s art borrows from and impacts its surroundings to provoke a reaction in her audience.
One of the most significant strategies to appear repeatedly in Horn’s art, and the way that she distinguishes herself from her artistic forebears, is that of doubling, as seen in BIBIRD. Pairs of images—in the case of BIBIRD, diptychs of Horn’s photographs of taxidermied Icelandic birds set against a clean white background and shown at close range to abstract effects—invite the viewer to compare the images, find differences, and notice small changes in the environment around us. Doubling gives the work a new content that goes beyond the experiential. As Horn states, “With one object, its presence is emanating out into the world with it as the center. With two objects that are one object, you have an integral use of the world. You have the necessary inclusion of circumstance” (R. Horn, quoted in N. Spector, “Roni Horn: Being Double,” Roni Horn, exh. cat., De Pont, Tilburg, 1994, p. 58).
In the present work, Horn has taken the letters “BI” from a copy of Bird, the exhibition catalogue that accompanied her 2008 show of these photographs, cut them out of the cover, and placed them onto the cover of a second catalogue so that the title reads as “BIBIRD.” The letters “BI” have been aligned with “BIRD” meticulously, and they have been inserted into the hardcover so as to lay flush with the surrounding text. The strategy of doubling that is so persistent in Horn’s oeuvre is thus replicated here by the repetition of letters that also allude to the prefix “bi” meaning “twice” or “two,” and it echoes the doubling of the portraits in the book. Moreover, Horn’s use of a second cover of the Bird exhibition catalogue to create BIBIRD also mirrors the artist’s other site-dependent works, which cull from and respond to their surroundings. Within BIBIRD, we can find Horn’s tongue-in-cheek quotations of her previous works, as well as allusions to and use of the main artistic and conceptual strategies that define her as one of the leading artists of the 21st century.
Roni Horn (b. 1955), signed and dated “R. Horn 2014” (on the cover) BIBIRD. Collaged cover on printed book 12 1/4 x 11 1/4 in. Published in 2008 and executed in 2014.