The Oceanic Silence of Rebecca Horn

in Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities
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  • 1 University of Pennsylvania, USA
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Abstract

In this article, I reconsider the early work of artist Rebecca Horn as situated at the threshold of complex new theoretical, political, and artistic movements. Horn's performance pieces of the late 1960s and early 1970s formally echo this social upheaval, vibrating with tension between intimacy and isolation, pleasure and pain, human and machine. Horn's prosthetic sculptures gesture toward a continuity between body and world reminiscent of the Radical Freudian concept of Eros, echoed in the body art and sexual liberation movements of the 1960s, in which the body becomes a fluid expression of polymorphous, nonbinary desire. The sinister backdrop of postwar Germany, however, haunts the artist's work to the extent that silence becomes a motif of its own. Through her work, I ask the question: can the oceanic vision of a genderless Eros be realized, while the wounds of atrocity and of patriarchy are still inscribed on the body, or must polymorphous fluidity remain a fantasy, a utopia deferred?

Contributor Notes

After three years as Cinema Editor for London-based magazine Culture Whisper, India Halstead left journalism in order to complete her doctoral degree in Comparative Literature at University of Pennsylvania, where she currently holds a Benjamin Franklin Fellowship. Having trained in Classics (BA, University College London; Master of Studies, University of Oxford) she now works primarily on the reception of Greek and Latin literature in modernist and contemporary culture, through the lens of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies.

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