'Roni Horn: White Dickinson'

by Jae Lee

Rat Hole Gallery
Closes Dec. 5

In 2008, the Rat Hole gallery held American artist Roni Horn’s first solo exhibition, titled “This is me, This is You.” Horn placed a series of 48 photographs of her niece on one wall and on the opposite wall, she hung another 48 photographs that mirrored the first set but were taken a few seconds later. At first glance, the two groups of photos look the same, but on closer inspection, the viewers begin to notice differences.

This use of paired photographs to invite viewers to participate in an art piece has been a theme of Horn’s work. For her second exhibition, however, she has chosen to show works that pair the physical act of seeing with the cognitive act of thinking.

As referred to in the title, Horn’s series “White Dickinson” uses verse from the works of 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson, which are embedded into aluminum poles that lean against the gallery walls. In the catalogue, Horn explains, “The hybridizing of looking and reading, the experience that binds these two acts, is another kind of pairing . . . with you as the third element.”

It is a minimalist installation, and yet the concept behind the work almost overwhelms the Rat Hole’s modest underground exhibition space. By manifesting Dickinson’s poetry in a physical form, she tranforms language into a solid structure. However, she also deconstructs the words. The viewer sees them abstractly, as an illegible barcode of white lines on the sides of the pieces, then makes a cognitive connection when reading the words out of their normal context. It is this experience that makes “White Dickinson” interactive, just as Horn planned.

“White Dickinson” is accompanied by a side room of Roni Horn’s red-pigment drawings at Rat Hole Gallery in Omotesando, Tokyo; open daily 12 p.m.-8 p.m., closed Mon.; admission free. For more information, visit