Thursday, April 09, 2009

Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)

The best thing for me in the Roni Horn exhibition at Tate Modern is 'Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)' a set of 15 close up photographs of the surface of the Thames taken on the Central London stretch of the river.

According to Horn: 'every photograph is wildly different—even though you could be photographing the same thing from one minute to the next. It’s almost got the complexity of a portrait, something with a personality. Of course the Thames is an especially beautiful river to photograph because the weather here is so indecisive, it’s rarely blue skies, which would be the least interesting light to photograph water in. The Thames has this incredible moodiness, and that’s what the camera picks up. It is also about it being a tidal river, so it has these vertical changes and it moves very quickly. It’s actually a very dangerous river and you sense that just by looking at it'.

Each of the pictures is annotated with a series of quotations and comment reflecting on the river and water, such as 'The sound of the river at night is a landscape of possibilities'. Horn is particularly interested in the relationship between the Thames and death - one note states: 'Another kind of suicide or even drowning in another river wouldn't be the same. In the Thames you die a double death, you die but you also disappear'.

As she described in an interview, 'I thought I would shoot the Seine or the Garonne, but these rivers don’t have the same energy. I don’t know how many people kill themselves in the Seine but it just didn’t look like a convincing suicide route to me. The Thames has the interesting fact attached to it that it is the urban river with the highest appeal to foreign suiciders. So you get people coming in from Paris to kill themselves in the Thames. So it has an incredible draw and one of the points about shooting the Thames was the fact that it’s darkness was quite real—it wasn’t just a visual darkness, it was a psychological darkness. Water is something one’s attracted to largely for the light aspect of it. And the banks along the Thames, a lot of them are being restored or renovated and the view is on this very dark water'.

Roni Horn aka Roni Horn is on at Tate Modern until 25 May 2009.

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