Roni Horn: Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake

Fundació Joan Miró

Roni Horn at Fundació Joan Miró


View of the exhibition rooms at Fundació Joan Miró. © Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona. Photo: Pere Pratdesaba.


Roni Horn. Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake


20 June–28 September 2014

Fundació Joan Miró
Parc de Montjuïc
08038 Barcelona



The Fundació Joan Miró and Obra Social “la Caixa” present the exhibition Roni Horn. Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake. In her first monographic exhibition in Barcelona, Roni Horn uses her work to question the reality that surrounds her, her own identity, and her relationship with the environment. The works in the show include her latest sculptural installation, exhibited in Europe for the first time.

Roni Horn is the winner of the fourth edition of the Joan Miró Prize, a biennial award bestowed by the Fundació Joan Miró and Obra Social “la Caixa,” which includes a cash prize of 70,000 euros and an invitation to exhibit in Barcelona and Madrid.

The show has been conceived by the artist herself, and explores the different media and approaches that she has used over the past twenty years. It covers the major themes and formats that make up her work: sculptural installations, photographic series, process-based drawings, and a floor piece. The title of the exhibition Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake is taken from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, published in 1935.

The exhibition is intended to offer an overall experience, like an installation made of all the works on display. Roni Horn selected the pieces with the Fundació Joan Miró and CaixaForum Madrid spaces in mind, and they can be seen as a compendium of the elements that underpin the artist’s creative process: the landscape, light, words, water, presence, glass, faces, change, forms, series, spaces, the appearance of the self, and time.

The show in Barcelona begins with a sculptural installation from the “White Dickinson” series that includes quotes from the poet Emily Dickinson in each of the pieces. It is followed by the photographic series “You are the Weather, Part 2,” an updated version of one of Roni Horn’s key works that consists of 100 black and white and colour portraits of the same woman bathing in thermal waters in Iceland. The woman’s facial expressions change subtly in each image, reflecting the weather conditions around her.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the recent Untitled (‘My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the deathcup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.’), a sculptural installation comprised of ten cylindrical cast glass elements in subtly shifting hues of green. This piece responds to the shifting light, creating a sensory experience of colour, weight, lightness, solidity and fluidity. The exhibition also includes two rooms with drawings. As in the case of Joan Miró, drawing is an essential aspect of Roni Horn’s work. 

Other works in the exhibition include Dead Owl, a double portrait of an owl that questions appearance and similarity; the series of portraits a.k.a.; the photographic mosaic Her, Her, Her and Her, a set of views of a locker room in a swimming pool complex in Iceland, which is exhibited alongside the black glass sculpture Opposite of White, v.2; and Still Water (The River Thames, for Example), a series of photographs emphasizing the dark side of the River Thames.

The floor piece Rings of Lispector (Água Viva), another example of the importance of literature in Horn’s work, consists of passages from Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector arranged in circles and swirls in a rubber mat covering the whole floor the visitors can walk on. The literary titles offer a narrative way into Horn’s work, while still maintaining its ambiguity. 

Roni Horn (b. 1955, New York) has explored the mutable nature of appearance through sculptures, photography, works on paper and books. Her work revolves around the relationship between humankind and nature—a mirror-like relationship in which we attempt to remake nature in our own image. Since 1975, Horn has travelled often to Iceland, whose landscape and isolation have strongly influenced her practice. The jury of the 2013 Joan Miró Prize emphasized that Horn “impresses audiences with a multifaceted practice that links aspects of nature, the landscape and popular culture with mechanisms of perception and communication.”

The jury of the 2013 Joan Miró Prize was made up of leading professionals from the contemporary art world: Alfred Pacquement, former Director of the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris); Vicent Todolí, former Director of the Tate Modern (London) and current Art Director of HangarBiccoca (Milan); Poul Erik Tøjner, Director of the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Humlebæk, Denmark); Rosa Maria Malet, Director of the Fundació Joan Miró (Barcelona); and Nimfa Bisbe, Director of the Fundació “la Caixa” Contemporary Art Collection. The previous winners of the Joan Miró Prize are Olafur Eliasson (2007), Pipilotti Rist (2009) and Mona Hatoum (2011).

Exhibition organized by 
Fundació Joan Miró 
“la Caixa” Foundation


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