Reviewed February 2020
Mackenzie Salisbury, Information Literacy Librarian
John M. Flaxman Library, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Reading Resources — Roni Horn guide is a free web resource from the founders of Art Resources Transfer (A.R.T), artist Alejandro Cesarco, writer Kylie Gilchrist, and education consultant Wendy Tronrud. According to the website, “The Reading Resources is an annual series of online teaching guides that supplement the free art books provided by the D.U.C. Library Program.... It aims to facilitate the direct use of D.U.C. books in educational activities, and to equip readers with broader strategies for communication, critical inquiry, and social action. ” The design of this website is visually appealing, simple, and clean which allows the user to focus and engage with the content and images provided. Overall, the resource is successful in giving anyone with access to the internet multiple ways in which to begin to understand Roni Horn’s artwork.
This guide is broken down into four parts: Guiding Questions, Activities, Additional Materials, and a Bibliography. The navigation is not as clear initially as it could be, requiring the user to scroll “below the fold” to see each section within the guide, or to find the direct links to each section at the top of the screen. These channels of learning are derived from the Understanding by Design (UbD) Framework and backward design, in which educators start with the desired outcomes of a course and then create and design curriculum, assessment, and instruction modules working backward.
As an instructional tool, this resource works well beginning with the Guiding Questions section that frames the theme of Identity found in Roni Horn’s work. The explanation of the theme and the relationship to the artists’ work uses very accessible, basic language that is written for the broadest of audiences in an approachable style.
From there it outlines a number of Activities that act as subsections of the larger theme, and a number of exercises that can be built upon one another. All of these exercises are easy to follow and contemporary in their approach, relating terms like “selfies” to “self-portraiture.” There are a number of levels defined by general age group, but the content is somewhat identical, with slight variation in the explanation or production aspect of the activity. While this is clearly an attempt at making these activities user friendly, those with slightly more knowledge on the subject may find it lacking in critical connections. The last exercise in each activity always refers the viewer to other reading resources, which helps participants connect Roni Horn’s work to other contemporary artists.
The Additional Material section includes key terms consisting of free popular articles, videos, interviews, and museum websites, as well as a bibliography with similar materials. The variety of information provided does engage the user, however having additional materials based on the participants' level of understanding would expand the usability of this guide. There is also a place for participants to “talk back” to the creators of these guides, which is a link out to a form where there is a survey and a place to upload images.
Contemporary Art can often be hard to understand or access if the viewer doesn’t have previous understanding or knowledge on the subject. This resource in its current state is a fantastic primer or resource for contemporary art museums and libraries that work with the general public, school children, or even entry level college students. This guide successfully breaks down complex themes within art and helps the participants to begin to understand and engage with the artwork through the approach outlined in this guide.