Activity Group 2: Identity and Contexts

These exercises are written for kids, with the idea that an adult or teen can help read the exercises aloud or help the child complete them however necessary.

The places in which we grow up, live, and travel define us in important ways, through our relations to other people as well as to the landscape and built environment. Our most important memories are often attached to such places. If our identity is closely tied to one place, what happens when we move to another? How could we think about having multiple identities, tied to different places yet existing at the same time.

Metaphors can help us understand these complex ideas in more immediate ways. Horn has said, "I think of my images of the Thames as a mirror." What other metaphors could you use to describe your identity?

We would love to hear how you have used Reading Resources. Please share feedback and student work here.

Exercise One (Adults)

This exercise uses Horn's "Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)" (1999) photo with footnotes.

Please open or download large versions of the photographs above to use in the exercises:
Photograph 1, Photograph 1, Detail
Photograph 2, Photograph 2, Detail
Photograph 3, Photograph 3, Detail

1. Choose one of the photos and take a moment to look at it. Write down 3–5 observations.

2. Using one of the detail photographs, choose a footnote number. Do close looking (following the guidance here) and observing of the surface of the water right around the footnote. Describe it.

3. Do a close reading (following the guidance here) of the footnote.

4. Go back to the number/surface and discuss the relationship between the water, the footnote, and yourself in writing. How did the footnote help you engage more deeply with the image of the water? What associations, ideas, or feelings did the reading of the footnote bring to your looking at the image of the water?

Exercise Two (Adults)

When you think of water, what do you think of?

1. Write down or tell someone the first few things that come to your mind. Be quick! Be creative!

2. Next, do some careful looking at a few of Horn's photographs of water.

3. Choose two photos. Make some observations about each one. What do you see? What kinds of waves or water surface do you notice? What kinds of colors? What other details do you notice?

4. Using a T-Chart (template here), make a list of similarities and differences between the two photos you studied.

5. And, so? How do Horn's portraits of water compare to what you said for #1? Did what you say about water feel different or similar to Horn's portraits of water?

6. If you made a photograph of water, where would you go? What body of water would you want to work with and why?

Exercise Three (Adults)

A metaphor is a way of comparing two unlike things, or of bringing two unlike things together in one sentence. Some well-known metaphors: From William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, "Juliet is the sun"; or as in Emily Dickinson's poem, "Hope is the thing with feathers".

For Horn, water is a metaphor for how she sees herself, as constantly changing and in motion.

Develop three metaphors that describe how you perceive changes in your identity. If Horn often uses water, what would your metaphor be? For example, "My identity is... ", "My identity is like... ", "I am... ", OR "I am like... ".

Exercise Four (Adults)

Using Horn's images as a model, make your own footnoted image. Take a photo of a person, object or scene/landscape that is important to you and add three footnotes to it.

One you take a photo, print it out so you can handle it and look at it more closely. (You can also take an image from the internet.)

Choose three details or moments in the photo that you want to footnote. Be creative and be surprising. Your footnotes can be sentences that you make up, or you can choose "found sentences," using quotes from your favorite books, poems, songs, etc.

If you need help locating "found sentences" to use, try these two browsing games in your library or classroom bookshelf:

  1. Follow the theme: think of a topic, idea, person, historical event, etc. If using the library, look this up in the library catalog using a key word search, choose a book, and pull it from the shelf. If using your classroom bookshelf, choose the book that appears most related to this topic. Using the book's table of contents or index (a list of topics at the back), look up your topic and identify areas of the book that discuss related subjects. Open to those sections and locate a quote.
  2. Close your eyes and choose a book. Pick a number in your head and open to that book's page. Swirl your finger around the page and land on one sentence.
    For further thinking, try both strategies and compare. What kind of quote does each produce? How are they the same or different?

Reading Resources: Roni Horn was produced by Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T.) in collaboration with Wendy Tronrud (A.R.T. Education Consultant) in 2018–19.

A.R.T. acknowledges the invaluable generosity, assistance, and enthusiasm of all who contributed to Reading Resources production:

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

We also thank:
National Endowment for the Arts
H.W. Wilson Foundation
Hauser & Wirth
Florence Derieux
Abby Merrick, Roni Horn Studio Manager
A.R.T. Board of Directors
and most specially, Roni Horn.

Web programming by Jeff Khonsary.
Copyright © Art Resources Transfer, Inc 2019.

All images are protected under copyright by the original rights holders.

A.R.T. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Print this Page