Hornick’s piece helps to do just that—except the stories it tells are ones she has partly fabricated. The artist, who is also a lecturer in the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania—and currently teaching a graduate seminar called Museum as Site: Critique, Intervention, and Production—has written a series of “poems” based on the visions that came to her during her drum journeys, or shamanistic trances. In Room 23, for instance, she describes the encounter between a bear, a nude woman, and a hunter in ’s Unpleasant Surprise
(1901), one of the first works that caught her eye for the project. The woman, she says, is courting the bear as a possible spirit guide and playing with it when the hunter intrudes.
In order to select the works, says Hornick, she both studied them in the collection’s catalog and examined them in person. “I familiarized myself with all of the works that had animals in them, and all the works with landscapes that intrigued me, and those that seemed like they would be useful in a practical way in terms of getting around in an alternate reality.” She also chose characters and historical figures she was drawn to. Among them are ’s Smoker
(1888) and ’s Young Girl on a Bench
(1880), which are displayed close by in Room 13.
“Young girl is 11 years old. Van Gogh’s Smoker
is her father…,” Hornick states on the recording. She then goes on to mention van Gogh’s role as a lay minister (which is true) and the bouillabaisse dinner party (fiction) that the young girl, the Smoker, and other sitters in Barnes’s portraits will attend “at a farm table under shade of tree in ’s Bois de la Chaise
(1892), directly to the left of Manet’s Young Girl on a Bench
.” The artist draws connections between works throughout all the galleries, noting, for instance, all the bulls that appear throughout collection.
Hornick orates in a highly controlled, almost robotic voice that is somewhat trance-inducing, but also seemingly at odds with the kind of uninhibited experience we might associate with shamanism. The artist first learned about shamanism at the age of 9 from a close family friend, a Harvard-trained anthropologist who returned from the Amazon and “wanted to share this medicine with the West,” she says. He taught her family about shamanic practices, and while Hornick can follow a drum beat into a trance and meet her “spirit guide” animal, she uses the visions both for spiritual purposes and intellectual ones, including institutional critique.
“I’m looking at authority, and art history, the museum—the way stories are written down, then the way the art historian tells them, and the way the curator installs them, and what the viewer projects upon it,” she explains. “So when I do the shamanic journey, I’m asking for transformative information, but I’m also layering another story on these heavily laden works. So it’s ironic, a bit.” According to Lucy, Hornick isn’t reinterpreting the works, but enhancing the viewer’s experience of them, “and definitely poking fun at the conventional audio tour,” she says.