Art Theory Analysis on Rebecca Horn's Feathered Prison Fan

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Carisa Davies VA3.2

Art Theory Critical Essay

Rebecca Horn – “Feathered Prison Fan” (1978)

The artist chosen for this essay is Rebecca Horn, a German performance and installation artist, her work being the ‘Feathered Prison Fan’. Rebecca Horn has used the body to address and express her issues of identity, specifically her insecurities with connecting to the outside world based from her traumatizing childhood where because she was German, in the aftermath of World War II many shunned her race, and she thus became very enclosed. Her way of expression is by taking one aspect of the human body and emphasizing it with other mediums, creating a mystical and poetic form.

Initially looking at the ‘Feathered Prison Fan’, the piece gives warmth and protection while withholding the opposite feeling of insecurity and claustrophobia. More specifically, the warmth and protection being the exterior of the sculpture and the insecurity and claustrophobia being within the shell.

The medium used for this work is an array of exotic ostrich feathers over wood and motor, enclosing the figurine. The viewer is only able to see a pair of legs extending from within the vertex of the shell. As much as feathers represent lightness and freedom, by using ostrich feathers, the work expresses the incapability of flying and only giving the illusion of freedom, the shell suggesting its weight too heavy both physically and emotionally for taking off.

Movement plays a strong part of the work with its movable fan of feathers, displaying a visual rhythm through its opening and closing of its feathers. The fan begins with a slow romantic opening, being very fluid and gradual, creating a gentle rhythm for the viewer. Then in a curt and aggressive manner, the fan snaps shut almost instinctively. This breaks the harmony it previously harboured, only feet being seen. This relates to...
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