I’m often asked, but have no idea why I chose Iceland, why I first started going, why I still go. In truth I believe Iceland chose me.—from the introduction
Contemporary artist Roni Horn first visited Iceland in 1975 at the age of nineteen, and since then, the island’s treeless expanse has had an enduring hold on Horn’s creative work. Through a series of remarkable and poetic reflections, vignettes, episodes, and illustrated essays, Island Zombie distills the artist’s lifelong experience of Iceland’s natural environment. Together, these pieces offer an unforgettable exploration of the indefinable and inescapable force of remote, elemental places, and provide a sustained look at how an island and its atmosphere can take possession of the innermost self.
Island Zombie is a meditation on being present. It vividly conveys Horn’s experiences, from the deeply profound to the joyful and absurd. Through powerful evocations of the changing weather and other natural phenomena—the violence of the wind, the often aggressive birds, the imposing influence of glaciers, and the ubiquitous presence of water in all its variety—we come to understand the author’s abiding need for Iceland, a place uniquely essential to Horn’s creative and spiritual life. The dramatic surroundings provoke examinations of self-sufficiency and isolation, and these ruminations summon a range of cultural companions, including El Greco, Emily Dickinson, Judy Garland, Wallace Stevens, Edgar Allan Poe, William Morris, and Rachel Carson. While brilliantly portraying nature’s sublime energy, Horn also confronts issues of consumption, destruction, and loss, as the industrial and man-made encroach on Icelandic wilderness.
Filled with musings on a secluded region that perpetually encourages a sense of discovery, Island Zombie illuminates a wild and beautiful Iceland that remains essential and new.
"'Iceland was the only place I went without cause, just to be there,' the New York-based artist Roni Horn writes in Island Zombie, her attempt to explain her powerful affinity for the country. Pieced together from decades of essays, interviews, poetry and photographs, Horn's latest book is a reflection on the complex beauty of a place that she continues to return to "with migratory insistence and regularity."—Chris Allnutt, Financial Times
"A wonderful, beguiling read in which Roni takes us deep into her experience of Iceland."—Ben Luke, The Art Newspaper, A Brush With . . .
"Island Zombie is a distillation of vignettes and essays on the natural and built environment (swimming pools are as much of a presence here as waterfalls), illustrated with the artist’s photographs. Often occupying no more than half a page, these fragmentary glimpses and reflections are indeed like “soil samples”, archived in an elegantly uncluttered volume that evokes Iceland’s forlorn emptiness as much as its places and people."—Nancy Campbell, Times Literary Supplement
"Brilliant. . . . Prosaic and profound, [Island Zombie] felt like standing before art again."—Bridget Quinn, Hyperallergic
"Sensually arresting . . . eloquent. . . . The first sections of the book will stoke the desire for a more in-depth study of Iceland; the others will interest veteran Iceland-watchers."—Kirkus Reviews
"Island Zombie is a thoughtful reflection on isolation, resilience, natural wonder, and living in the moment. Written by the contemporary artist Roni Horn, it’s the sort of book you find yourself returning to often — to ponder, to explore, and to be inspired. In fact, this book is more like an art project that you want to page through at random than a straightforward “travelogue.” Not only does it venture deep into the author’s obsession with Iceland, but it has something unique to say about why humans love to travel in the first place."—Steve Bramucci, UPROXX
"At times quiet and at times chaotic, Island Zombie captures the incorporeality of a nation that embodies the evanescence of the northern lights and the ephemerality of fumarole vapor... The book is an artistic tribute to... the diminishing nowhereness of which Iceland, indistinct in its bleak high latitudes, so definitively represents."—Brendan Curtinrich, Split Rock Review
"Roni Horn’s Island Zombie turns boredom into an asset…a chance to recharge and reflect."—Jean Bundy, Anchorage Press
"Island Zombie is an intoxicating artist’s journal and a work of art itself. We feel, through Roni Horn’s carefully rendered words and photographs, the delight of discovering ‘nowhere.’ Yet, Horn offers a provocative and heartbreaking question: ‘Is nowhere gone?’ At a time when many of us have come to understand the price of overusing and wrongly altering the earth’s resources, this is a powerful manifesto."—Anna Deavere Smith, author of Letters to a Young Artist
"Roni Horn’s Island Zombie depicts, with laser-like clarity, the complex and profound experience of being human in a vast, fabulous, and unforgiving natural world. It’s a remarkable accomplishment."—Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
"Roni Horn’s Iceland is part landscape, part lover. Scrambling over pewter shale and purple moss, sleeping so still she becomes a branch for a bird, Horn records her tectonic relationship with a strange volcanic island that is simultaneously other and self."—Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
"An astounding act of meditation and a guidebook back to our senses, Roni Horn’s Island Zombie rides the changeability of the life of a place with solitude at its center. This remarkable achievement is a gift to life, a gift of a life, a gift of life."—Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric
“In these days of global disharmony, Roni Horn reminds us of the connection between us all: the weather. Horn never misses a word, no matter how big or small. She takes us to the edge of nowhere and fills it with content.”—Nan Goldin, artist
"There is an Icelandic saying: ‘A guest’s eye is a sharp eye.’ Roni Horn is an artist who has defined Iceland for me. Few know the country as well as Horn does and her work has taught me how to look at and feel this place."—Ragnar Kjartansson, artist
“Island Zombie engagingly tracks Roni Horn’s struggle to be present and to see—really see—the nuances of the Icelandic landscape. The artist is attentive and observant, and as a result, these pieces evoke solitude in nature as a joy and respite.”—Eva Heisler, author of Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic
"Roni Horn’s brilliant and timely book is a must-read for all who have followed the career of this stellar American artist. Island Zombie is concerned with the temporality of landscape, the agency of the nonhuman world, and the mutual constitution of subjects and places. It will interest anyone concerned with the philosophical and aesthetic aspects of the Anthropocene.”—Johanne Sloan, author of Joyce Wieland’s “The Far Shore”