Berlin-Übungen in neun Stücken
1974 – 1975, 00:39:50, PAL, color, sound, H023 10
Rebecca Horn belongs to the first generation of female artists who worked with performance and video in connection with questions of space and the body as well as movement and perception. In the 1970s she worked with so-called extensions of the body, which blurred the boundaries between body and machine and transferred mechanized rhythmic movements into space with the help of masks, feathers, or gloves, for example. The artificially evoked corporeal sensations moved between sculpture (living sculpture) and performance. Horn later extended this aesthetic and spatial strategy in her kinetic objects and spatial installations, in which the machines became the subject of the artist’s actions. In cooperation with the Berliner Festspiele, the Berlin-Übungen were produced in as staged performances for the camera: Mit beiden Händen die Wände berühren / Blinzeln / Federn tanzen auf den Schultern / Die untreuen Beine festhalten / Zwei Fischchen die sich an einen Tanz erinnern / Räume berühren sich beim Spiegeln / Zwischen den feuchten Zungenblättern die Haut abstreifen / Mit zwei Scheren gleichzeitig Haare schneiden (Touching the Wall with Both Hands / Blinking / Feathers Dancing on Shoulders / Grasping Unfaithful Legs / Two Little Fish Recalling a Dance / Touching Spaces while Reflecting / Shedding Skin between the Moist Tongue Leaves / Cutting Hair with Two Pairs of Scissors at the Same Time). The performances oscillated between explorations of space and the body, an attempt to communicate with a parrot, and surreal experiments with images and sound in a prewar apartment with high ceilings in Berlin. The exercises, the playing with actions that transgress space and boundaries, begin by surveying the room with scissors-like gloves. As they pace the room off, both sides are touched simultaneously. By contrast, in a close-up of ambiguous hairy parts of the body, two very small fish on rods move through the thicket. The exercises end with a radical gesture by the artist: she cuts “her” long hair using two pairs of scissors in parallel while the male viewer talks about the mating behavior of snake-men. Horn’s early work is also influenced by a feminist critique of society.