"The machine is a substitute for eternal life, because it lasts forever."--Rebecca Horn, 1993
With major works in film, video, performance, sculpture, and installation, Rebecca Horn is creating a new medium where many actions and processes intersect. The core theme in her varied works is the human body and its relationship to machines and nature. Her work in performance art started with the blending of sculpture and performance through the use of wearable machines such as finger and arm extensions, full body-sized feathered wings, and a face mask covered with sharpened pencils for drawing. Many of her works take the form of kinetic machines that perform simple repetitive actions with the assistance of electric motors.
Horn creates a machine to mimic the human act of painting in The Little Painting School Performs a Waterfall. Thirteen feet above the floor on a gallery wall, three fan-shaped paint brushes mounted on flexible metal arms slowly flutter down into cups filled with blue and green acrylic paint. After a few seconds of immersion they snap backward, spattering paint onto the wall, the ceiling, the floor, and onto canvases projected from the wall below. The brushes immediately resume their descent, and the cycle is repeated until each canvas is covered in paint. This kinetic work encourages reflection on our modern day estrangement from nature, as the waterfall presented is not real, and the "school" that painted it is three mechanical brushes rather than the hand of an artist. No physical trace of a human being or nature can be found.