Roni Horn


this is me. this is you 1998-2000

A writer-philosopher-poet-theoretician who is incidentally a woman but also defines herself beyond the binary dichotomies of gender – what does she look like? And is that really the purpose of Index Cixous, the book that Roni Horn published in 2005? Does this little book with no text actually suggest the portrayal of a person’s appearance? The quality of the 80 photographs contained in this volume, with the format 14 × 20.5 cm, lies in its shattering of any attempt at a monofocal representation of “Hélène Cixous, the famous writer”. They don’t display the style, the label, the stamp of a photographer scratching beneath the mask in search of a truth. Instead they melt those identities, as we might speak of the melting of snow or a glacier, of a place, that is, that is being changed by time. The name of Cixous is alone in the list of meaningful terms to which the pages refer. Index Cixous lays out a frontal relationship and a frontal exchange – your face against someone else’s – which liquefy certainties in order to reinforce the experience of reading, the “fruitful miracle of a communication in the depths of solitude”, as Proust puts it, along the paths of an adventurous, agnostic repetition of what presents itself as the meaning of the read text.

Framed by a white border, the face follows on from itself on the different pages of the bound and unpaginated book. That face is always shown in close-up, leaving out the top of the head, which places it at odds with any respect for pre-established delimitation. It is hardly ever shown face-on, seldom in full profile: the expressive duality that the art historian Meyer Schapiro has turned into a symbolic form (that of the face and the profile, the divine and the concrete, the icon and the medal…) never reaches the end of this tale. Sometimes there are two faces on adjacent pages; one on the left and the other on the right; or one recto, the other verso. Sometimes they form groups or come together in sequences. Sometimes there is only one face and a blank on the page next to it; to the left or the right, as if to begin or end a sentence. The pictures are in black and white and about a fifth of them are in colour. Punctuation marks, rhythms and sets thus construct a system of signs that supports and carries the reading. A blank. A smiling face. A blank. A smile. A smile stretching into a laugh. A laugh fading away and lasting in the movement that calms the features. A blank. The face looks elsewhere. The face is absorbed. The head inclines. Blank. Blank. She thinks. She listens. She reads… Identity is diffracted in a multiplicity of representations which in turn index motions and construct a seismograph of emotions. Index Cixous suggests a rhythm, a temporality, sequences and silences that are the music of reading. Like the gestures of a conductor, the layout, head turned to the left, then to the right, largo, legato, staccato, andante, executes the notes and cadences for which the book is also the score. It is also to say how much photography, when it is “laid out in a book”, loses its cult, autographical status to settle within your reach.


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