Oct 14, 2022

prosthetics attached to people

I wrote a short piece for Art In America’s October issue, which has art and disability as its theme. It was a pleasure to get to write about Rebecca Horn’s Finger Gloves (1972), which I’ve admired for so long:

Finger gloves.2.jpg

(ID: In a studio with two arched windows, Horn stands in the middle of the room with two “gloves” extending their fingers like rakes all the way to each wall, the better to scrape or caress or…?)

Here’s an excerpt:

In a 2006 essay titled “A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality,” disability scholar Vivian Sobchack despaired of the prosthesis showing up in literature and art as mere metaphor: deriving pure formalism from replacement parts through chic and imprecise body-plus-machine assemblages, with this thing vaguely subbing for that. Historian Katherine Ott similarly insisted on “keeping prostheses attached to people”—or connected to concrete, everyday forms of access. In Horn’s oeuvre, access is prismatic, sometimes suggesting hardy, pragmatic use, and sometimes evoking an unresolved mix of constraint and possibility. Finger Gloves marks the achievement that eludes so many: the prosthesis that’s hard to pin down and hard to forget, with simplicity and gravitas and strangeness to spare.

You can watch Horn perform the gloves in this short video…and my whole piece is here.

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