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Rebecca Horn: Dancing Between The Lines

Part 1 Dissertation 2002
Josephine Jewkes-Jacobsson
Kingston University Kingston | UK
The title of this essay 'Dancing Between the Lines' entwines the strands of my biography and also of this essay. As a former classical dancer, the movements of the human body in space took on new importance for me when I commenced my architecture studies, although my supposed 'specialised' knowledge proved difficult to translate into architectural terms. When I became aware of the work of artist Rebecca Horn, I sensed that she could be the key to help reconcile my two worlds. Rebecca Horn is a contemporary German artist active since 1970, whose work encompasses body art, film. performance and installation: the main focus of this essay being her 'Concert for Buchenwald,' a two-part installation that she made for the city of Weimar, in 1999. With Rebecca Horn as my guide , I explore the concept of 'irreducibility' that echoes between the classical certainties, and the Greek concept of 'eurhythmy' encompassing harmony, proportion and rhythm.

An ideal geometry is the basis of classical ballet and gives the ballet dancer an unmistakable sense of 'line' running through the limbs and streaming out into space. Similarly, Rebecca Horn's work has an exquisite precision of line that expresses her dreamlike imagery. Architecture communicates through the medium of the line; the art of the accomplished measured drawing lies in a sensitive and controlled balance between geometrical line and expressive freedom. My title 'Between the Lines' is borrowed from Daniel Libeskind's own title for his unforgettable Jewish Museum in Berlin. Libeskind's competition submission was written between the parallel lines (staves) of musical notepaper as if in acknowledgement of the fact that words alone could not adequately express his concept. As a Jewish contemporary of Rebecca Horn also dealing with the Holocaust, Libeskind's work makes for fascinating comparisons.

A short video collage shows excerpts from two documentaries on Rebecca Horn and includes clips from her own films. Interwoven with these , are moments from a programme about Libeskind and his Jewish Museum, as well as fragments of ballet dancers in rehearsal and performance.

Josephine Jewkes-Jacobsson

Josephine's career as a principal ballet dancer gave her an extraordinary ground from which to look at two attempts which have been made at revealing the emptiness surrounding the Holocaust. She uses the choreographed performances of Rebecca Horn in Weimar entitled "Concert for Buchenwald" to illustrate the accountability of the audience and then the participation in the void which is central to Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Through the dissertation, which is discussing the particular elements of the artist's and architect's work, she weaves a discussion on the relationship between Romanticism and Modernity which found its most brutal realisation in the Nazi era.

She uses the intervention of Goethe in the original designs for Schloss Ettersburg as a ground for the discussion of formality and harmony in Nature which leads into a discussion of Vitruvius and whence, the rigours of classical dance. Whilst the dissertation covers much ground - both visually and in the text - it does not appear to lose sense of its purpose, so that when the real poetic heart of the investigation begins to emerge you feel as if the argument is not laboured, and its final conclusions, apt.

Her thesis is that whilst art itself does not civilise, its contemplation can offer some release to the observer and both Horn and Libeskind have created situations which, through our own choreographed participation, we cannot avoid. The conclusion of the dissertation suggests that the oft-cited relationship between music and architecture should extend to the world of dance.

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