On the other hand, they are essentially linguistic plays, which means abstracting them. Bruce Nauman. ‘To keep me busy’, he replied. My first idea was to have a hand in the mouth with some kind of connection—a bar, or some kind of mechanical connection. The neon “lines” flash on and off in a programmed sequence. I’ve also used the children’s game “musical chairs” a number of times. Learn about The Broad Collection artist Bruce Nauman. Bruce Nauman’s work functions as an eerie societal litmus test. SIMON There seems to be something particularly ominous about your use of chairs—both in this and other works. Bruce Nauman was born on December 6, 1941, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In my piece you’re not allowed to participate—the parts of the figure are put into place without you. Art that was just there all at once. Other times, we just stuck the speakers in the corners of the room and played the tape—like when the walls were too hard to build into. Unsettling … video work Anthro/Socio (Rinde Spinning). Still, how to proceed is always the mystery. There is an immediacy and an intrusiveness about sound that you can’t avoid. SIMON In your tape Clown Torture (1987), the clowns don’t act like clowns. He’s still producing plenty of new work, including Nature Morte, a new 3D scan of his studio on show in his New York gallery, Sperone Westwater. It is a story that seems to chime with Nauman’s art, where the line between peaceable interaction and sudden violence often seems terrifyingly thin. In this case though, we’re talking about a big steel sculpture hanging from the ceiling, with the chair isolated and suspended upside-down in the middle of the steel barrier. B ruce Nauman is telling me a story from his childhood. But in the circus it’s okay, it’s still funny. Or I load it emotionally in a way that it is not supposed to be loaded. SIMON Nevertheless, many of your works take as their starting point very specific children’s games. And from the time I spent in San Francisco going to the Art Institute, and before that in Wisconsin. It works. It would be like taking the middle out of Coltrane—just the hardest, toughest part of it. Somebody is always left out. Later, I realized it was never going to be like that, it was always going to be a struggle. I mean, I do, and I think Richard Serra does. It was conducted for the 1988 documentary Four Artists: Robert Ryman, Eva Hesse, Bruce, Nauman, Susan Rothenberg. I’d already had lunch. Because it’s warm when you apply it to a body, it opens up all the pores—it picks up all that, even the hairs. 1 White, No. “Get out of my mind, get out of this room,” urges one sculpture, via a disembodied voice that echoes round an empty space lit by a single bulb. The piece was originally recorded on film, and later transferred to video.As the film rolled through the camera, it made an incessant clicking sound. I fell on my knees and hit my chin on the table. The scripting, having the characters act out these roles and the repetition all build on that aggressive tension. NAUMAN Well, it’s funny you should ask that, because not long ago I read this book in which a character goes to funeral homes or morgues, and puts this moulage stuff on people and makes plaster casts—death masks—for their families. At some point in the nineteenth century, a mathematician—I can’t remember his name—proved it can’t be done. Get our latest stories in the feed of your favorite networks. ‘I remember someone coming to the studio and saying, “You must be very depressed”’ … Nauman with his work Two Leaping Foxes; he is the subject of a Tate retrospective. I just couldn’t see how to proceed as a painter. You couldn’t sit in it because of that wedge of grease or fat or whatever it was—it filled up the space you would sit in. It brings to mind the very start of the show: that video of Nauman repeatedly falling into the corner of the studio. As a statement, it’s hokey, ridiculous – but perhaps, on some level, true. I didn’t want somebody else’s idea of what could be done. I remember at one point thinking that some day I would figure out how you do this, how you do art—like, “What’s the procedure here, folks?”—and then it wouldn’t be such a struggle anymore. In games like football or baseball cheating is allowed to a certain extent. You spend all of this time in the studio and then when you do present the work, there is a kind of self-exposure that is threatening. It’s a way of structuring something so that you don’t have to make a story. See the renowned permanent collection and special exhibitions. Then there’s Washing Hands Abnormal, his 1996 video of hands being forcefully soaped for nearly an hour. It’s a dangerous situation and I think that what I was doing, and what I am going to do and what most of us probably do, is to use the tension between what you tell and what you don’t tell as part of the work. At one museum, when it was in the middle of the show, you heard the sound before you actually got to the piece. I didn’t want to have to go through all that every time. And for this reason, because clowns are abstract in some sense, they become very disconcerting. Production still from the Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 1 episode, Identity. In 1981, when I was making South American Triangle, I had been thinking about having something hanging for quite a long time. So, in the end, for South American Triangle, I decided that I would just suspend the chair and then hang a triangle around it. It still puzzles me how I made decisions in those days about what was possible and what wasn’t. Subscribe today and save up to 33%! N. … Bruce Nauman watches a video of Untitled (1998–99) in his studio, New Mexico, 2000. Nauman’s famous neon sculpture, the one that says “The true artist helps the world by revealing mystic truths” will be installed at the entrance to the exhibition. When I ask about the bleakness of his work, he says: “I remember someone coming to the studio and saying, ‘You must be very depressed.’ I said that I didn’t think so, otherwise I wouldn’t be making work. And about how people can be cruel to each other. There’s a kind of restraint and morality in Johns. The most comprehensive collection to date of the artist Bruce Nauman's writings plus all of his major interviews from 1965 to 2001. Describing how a work might begin to take shape, he says: “Sometimes a new piece comes from work I’ve finished, maybe even quite old pieces. They had peg boards that ran around the wall, so they could pick up all the furniture and keep the floors clean. The Bruce Nauman quotation is taken from Marcia Tucker, Bruce Nauman, in: Jane Livingston and Marcia Tucker, eds., Bruce Nauman. Since I couldn’t cast myself, I used my wife as the model. And it’s really a frightening piece. But it seems that rather than alluding to this melancholic or tragic side of the clown persona the video emphasizes the different types of masks, the historically specific genres of clowns or clown costumes. The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is crime and thrillers, John le Carré being a favourite. You never see it coming; it just knocks you down. Also, when you think about vaudeville clowns or circus clowns, there is a lot of cruelty and meanness. I was watching the studio at night and I was following Lewis and Clark. In any case, it was a chair that was pretending it was a chair—it didn’t work. He turns around to pick up the chair, and as he bends over, she’s standing up, and she gooses him. Think of the electric chair, or that chair they put you in when the police shine the lights on you. It seemed very straightforward to use all those different ways of expressing ideas or presenting material. Different kinds of anger and frustration.”, It is not all dark, though: seeing Nauman’s art is to encounter a curious, questing mind, one that has restlessly experimented, over a four-decade career, with performance, film, video, sound, music, drawing, text and sculpture. I finally realized that the most straightforward way to present the idea would be to cast that entire section of the body. As Nauman explained, in works such as White Breathing he was engaging in what he described as 'examinations of physical and psychological response to simple or even oversimplified situations which can yield clearly experiencable phenomena' (Bruce Nauman interview with Joan Simon, 'Breaking the Silence' Art in America 76(9), September 1988, p. 14 quoted in N. Benezra, 'Surveying Nauman', ed. No idea that if I was in school I was watching the studio – has often formed for! And studied piano, guitar, and how it is also a lot of the other and make. 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