Roni Horn aka Roni Horn at Tate Modern is the first full-scale exhibition of the American artist’s work in the UK. Horn has long been one of my favorite artists, and Still Water (The River Thames, for example) 1999 is one of the most engaging pieces of work that can be seen in the output of any contemporary American artist. Horn navigates a singular artistic practice through the modes of sculpture, works of paper, installations of photographs and objects, as well as artist’s books. She has, since 1975, regularly visited Iceland, a place which she returns to again and again through her work. Though drawing is often named as the keystone in Horn’s work, I find her ability to communicate the materiality of the photographed object to be her most successful output. Horn’s main interest is in the composition of relationships. She places identical objects in separate rooms, using the viewer as a communicator, interpreter, and conduit between them. She places identical photographs next to each other, inviting a new reading of the image in the context of its double. And she uses text in revolutionary ways. Text in Horn’s practice can be used as a physical object, as seen in her text sculptures of passages by Emily Dickinson and Flannery O’Connor. One such work, is Her Eyes (Intimate but untouchable) 1999, an aluminum bar installed high on a wall reading “His mother’s eyes, intimate but untouchable, were the blue of great distances after sunset” (after O’Connor). She also uses text in annotating photographs of things which cannot possibly be annotated, resulting in minimalist and implied poetry, as seen in the earlier-mentioned Still Water (The River Thames, for example). Here are a selection of the footnotes to one of the Still Water photographs, courtesy of Tate Etc. magazine: * 505 Here's a true story. A young actor drowned himself in the river a few years back. He had just been chosen for the part of Edgar Allan Poe in a play based on the life of the writer. Recently he had spoken to the author of the play about dropping the part of Poe and replacing it with a role in which he would play himself. ** 268 Do you remember the young Parisian woman I mentioned earlier? They found a suicide note in her hotel room addressed to her sister. (It was written in French.) The note referred in detail to her problems, including her bad teeth. (She thought they protruded too much.) 269 Police said this surprised them since, in their judgment, she did not have buck teeth. *** 7 The deserts of our future will be deserts of water. 311 This is a gelatinous moment. 312 Concerning "gelatinous or glutinous matters", see the short story The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, by Edgar Allan Poe, 1845. 313 See The Blob, directed by Irwin S Yeaworth Jnr in 1958, starring Steve McQueen. 314 See the essay What Is a Thing? by Martin Heidegger, 1967. 315 What does water look like? 316 See aspic. **** Water is transparence derived from the presence of everything. ***** 22 You say it's a river. I can believe that. But when you say it's water, I get suspicious. 23 Is the Thames a case of mistaken identity? 24 When you say water,what do you mean? 25 When you say water, are you talking about the weather or yourself? 26 When you see your reflection in water,do you recognise the water in you? Horn questions the validity of experiences which may be considered identical or universal. Her body of work, spanning more than thirty years, is repeatedly marked by place and reinterpretation of place. There is a constant site-specificity which is difficult to channel through the magical and foreign locus of Iceland, Horn’s place of choice which centers most of her work. She manipulates Iceland and its foreignness to create cycles of unfamiliar imagery, as seen in her series Pi, a cyclical installation of photographs from her work there. The cycle of Pi, much like the rest of Horn’s oeuvre, creates mirror-like relationships between the works and the viewer, inviting us to participate in the nature of her images, our own image, and our place as conduit between these elements. Roni Horn aka Roni Horn is on view at Tate Modern through May 25, 2009.