RONI HORN

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BUZZ AND DUST

I
The realism was disturbed by dust collecting on the ice floe and water. In the Hall of North American Mammals I wandered among the glass-fronted dioramas observing the minutely detailed replicas of animal life in native habitat. But the still setting and stuffed animals collected dust.

Gazing at an Arctic scene visible quantities of dust on the floating ice alerted me. Instinctively I knew that dust can only play at being a representation; instinctively I knew it was authentic dust.

As a child I observed the persistent presence of dust on everything at my steadily rising eye-level. Dust was especially visible on hard and reflective surfaces. I liked the way it mottled and muted reflection. When I sat on upholstered furnishings I knew the dust was there even though I couldn’t see it. I imagined it a neat filling, topping off each threadwork intersection. The soft things in the house were softer under dust and the hard things were as well. Dust reserved its most exotic forms and prolific expression for the more secret and unused places in the house. Under my bed, in my closets dust gathered— fluffy nuggets spawned and crowded. Through this youthful and intimate exposure I learned that dust never mingled. Even down among the long fibers of my mother’s rugs, dust was always on top.

Now, as I sit in my living room observing the dust I recognize how like my mother’s dust it is, how familiar and how plain. How it too sticks to eye-level vantage giving the feeling of endless déjà vu. And like my mother’s dust, my dust is authentic. And no matter what surface it garnishes, dust’s character is never changed.

II
As I sit in the evening light watching dusk settle around me a fly, noisy and casual, alights on the arm of my chair. Gross characteristics of the buzz are few. It’s constant with only a beginning and an end; it starts instantaneously with no prelude; it comes to you— to you personally. And though I can’t remember my first experience of buzz, a familiar quality attaches itself to the sound the moment I hear it.

It’s hard to get near a buzz though a buzz can come to you. In the past I may have followed one or two out the door. The smack of the screen ushered the buzz from earshot; the fly was gone.

As a child I associated the sound with a bit of aerial punctuation, a period perhaps— on the move, an end note. As a teenager I learned that a fly defecates twenty to thirty times an hour. The instant a fly would land I thought to myself: that fly is shitting on my table, my apple, on me. Sometime later, when I lived briefly in a log cabin upstate, I shared the living room on a seasonal basis with a large population of flies that settled on the windows. When I let the room temperature drop the flies would fall to the sills in a thick stupor leaving the glass mottled in a translucent fog of compost.

I was lying on my mother’s sofa reading when I heard a fly die. It was a summer afternoon, hot and rainy. Drops of water falling from the eaves softly thudded the glass. On the inside the dot-like body of a fly popped quietly against the window. The buzz resonated in the damp air compressing slightly each time the fly hit the glass. At length the buzz stopped. The black dot dropped onto the sill with a crisp, finite sound.

Reykjavík, Iceland,
July 1994

Roni Horn was born in New York in 1955. She lives and works in New York and Reykjavik, Iceland. In a career spanning thirty years, Roni Horn has produced drawings, photography, sculpture and installations, as well as works involving words and writing. Drawing, however, has a particularly important place within her practice. Horn is especially interested in the relationships and associations that can be established though this medium. Horn’s work, which has an emotional and psychological dimension, can be seen an engagement with post-Minimalist forms as containers for affective perception. A major solo exhibition RONI HORN AKA RONI HORN (2009-2010) was jointly organised by Tate Modern in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and was also presented at the ICA in Boston and Collection Lambert in Avignon.

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