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India Halstead


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?