When did water start coming into your work?

From spending so much of my time here in Iceland. Water was so influential to my life here: staying out of it (for many years I was traveling with a tent only) and staying in it, (I am very keen on the hot pots and swimming pools in the middle of nowhere). I started taking images of water a good fifteen years ago. Mostly they are unpublished. This was a long education for me in terms of looking at water.

Water is not about opposites, about one thing or the other, but about gradations?

I recognize water. And I think part of what I connect with in it and what has become so meaningful to me in this work is that it gives an understanding of identity that includes me.

So water is inclusive?

Strongly so, yes. It’s the extreme opposite of exclusive. The other thing that is interesting about water is that you’re never looking at water alone. You’re looking at water in relation to something. Whether a lake, or a river, or environment. Water is a very dependent material in terms of its neighbors, and you do have to wonder where its transparency comes from. The transparency of water is also the most opaque thing about it.

These images of water seem to carry with them a sense of time.

Well anything moving has an element of time in it. When I look at water, I know that it’s been somewhere else before. And that it’s been something else before, like rain or sweat. The ecology of water is confluent with everything. Maybe it’s timeless. What has time done to change water? Nothing.

Is the project with water ongoing?

I don’t know that I’ll ever get away from water. It’s still a process of discovery for me. Or as Paul Valéry said, “You never know who you’re sleeping with.” That’s the way I feel about water.

Roni Horn interviewed by James Lingwood…