By Madhusree Chatterjee
New Delhi: The National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) is carrying the inter-cultural dialogue between India and the west forward with an exposition of multi-media and performance art by one of the stalwarts of new age western art Rebecca Horn from April 7.
The showcase, “Passage Through Light”, dedicated to India with a country-specific installation as the centre-piece, will also exhibit Horn’s multi-media body sculptures, clips from her movies, old performance art acts and several new installations. The project is a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, “Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities” and the “Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations.”
The exhibition will open with a live musical performance by New Zealand-based musician, Hayden Chisholm, who has collaborated with Horn to create a musical score for her interactive art, Rebecca Horn told a select group of journalists at an interaction in New Delhi Thursday.
Horn, born in 1944 in Germany, is a master of body extension art. She crafts prosthetic extensions of body parts that can be attached to the human body in a variety of mediums.
Her signature body sculpture is the, “Einhorn” or the “Unicorn” – a large body suit with a horn in the head-piece like the mythical one-horned creature of European folklore. The “Einhorn” shot her to global recognition when she presented it live in 1972 in a wheat field featuring a 21-year-old woman wearing the horn – symbolic of the artist’s name.
Rebecca Horn has since created body pieces and interactive live art like “Pencil Mask”, “Finger Gloves” and “Feather Fingers” using media as quixotic as violins, suitcases, batons, ladders, pianos, feather fans, metronomes, mirrors, small metal hammers, black water basins, spiral drawing machines, huge funnels and artificial lights to create cosmic ambience.
A filmmaker, she has made feature films “La Ferdinanda: Sonata for a Medici Villa” and “Buster’s Bedroom” starring Donald Sutherland.
Horn, who worked with fibre glass and polyester as a young woman in the 1960s, switched to body art after a battle with lung-poisoning caused by exposure to chemicals.
“This is the third exhibition at NGMA as part of the Permanent Culture Committee of the Republic of India and Federal Republic of Germany. The first one was a comprehensive showcase of German Fluxus art followed by an exhibition of Gunter Uecker. We required infrastructure to host large international exhibitions. Now that we have new international quality space, we will continue to bring more international art to exhibit at NGMA,” director of the gallery Rajeev Lochan told IANS.
Located in the heart of the capital, NGMA had exhibited works of India-born British artist Anish Kapoor last year and a large number of Picasso’s art in 2001, Lochan said.
Describing her India specific concept installation, “Jungle of Life”, Horn said, “It uses light, mirrors, saris, clay, and two bamboo plants to create a journey into space and motion where everything is moving and changing.”
“The mirrors keep turning and nothing is the same. You pass from reality now to a kind of soul mirror which is constantly moving with the light reflecting. One passes through life,” Horn said.
The installation moves to the rhythm of recorded music by Hayden on a “Shruti Box”- a collection of “improvised Indian instruments” – and tonal chants. “It is dedicated to the women of India,” Horn said. The artist said “she has bundled Indian ‘saris’ into the installation to convey the notion of clothes”.
The artist said she has been inspired by contemporary Fluxus art icon Joseph Beuys, who has inspired generations of young artists, and from a year she lived in Japan.
The “hugging mystic Amma” from south India had planted the seeds of Indian spiritual sensibilities and had invited Horn to India nearly 20 years ago when the artist had met her at a countryside retreat near Frankfurt, Horn said, adding, “she has been a regular visitor to India”.
The exhibition will be inaugurated by culture minister Kumari Selja.