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You gave that up very early on. In fact, at that time, a number of artists were talking about art as though it were some kind of game you could play. Bruce Nauman is an uncompromising, physical, and confrontational artist and Eat/War is a characteristic political challenge that alternates staccato flashes in vivid neon colors of green and red. In an interview with Willoughby Sharp in 1970, Nauman commented on the difficulty of articulating his work: “It’s very easy to describe how the piece looks, but the experience of walking inside it is something else altogether which can’t be described. NAUMAN  The chair becomes a symbol for a figure—a stand-in for the figure. The chair is a central element in the action and the whole tape centers on a cruel joke. Since I couldn’t cast myself, I used my wife as the model. The neon “lines” flash on and off in a programmed sequence. In the video Walks In Walks Out (2015), he is no longer the lithe figure of the 1960s but inhabits an ageing body that has seen a great deal of life. There was also the idea that if I was in the studio, whatever I was doing was art. But let me describe how it got into its present form. He turns around and yells at her—calls her names. Still, how to proceed is always the mystery. For instance, how did From Hand to Mouth come about? 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 found the stuff at some police shop. What it conveys to me is the idea of the studio as, on the one hand, something familiar and everyday; and on the other, a vast and mysterious territory, full of potential incident and drama that the artist cannot control. Ahead of a major show, the US artist looks back on studio stunts and liquid lunches with legends, Last modified on Tue 29 Sep 2020 16.47 BST, Bruce Nauman is telling me a story from his childhood. The music is always going on. • Bruce Nauman is at Tate Modern, London, 7 October-21 February. NAUMAN  I think there is a need to present yourself. No matter how aggressive, provocative, or plain horrific, the artist continues to expand both his intellectual and physical confines to bewilder, bewitch, and bemoan an international audience. But basically I couldn’t function as a painter. I just put one on over the other, so that by the time the last one went on it was almost black. For several decades, Bruce Nauman has led a generation of artists less interested in aesthetic concerns than in how art carries meaning. It didn’t help me to figure out how the bolts went on. And since everybody was broke, I could rent pretty good 16mm equipment for $5 or $6 a day—essentially the cost of gas to bring it over. He tells me about his friend, the trainer Ray Hunt, who “was very intuitive with the horses. SIMON  An early example of masking the figure—your figure, to be precise—was your 1969 film Art Makeup. “As he got older, he couldn’t use his body as he had done 20 years previously, but he still understood how to make it function in a really interesting way – to use the edges of what he was able to do, to use that tension and make it into an artwork. And I went back and forth a couple of times. His father, an engineer and a salesman, moved the family several times to different midwestern locations, resulting in a somewhat turbulent and lonely childhood for Nauman. I begin to see a part that I hadn’t considered, that becomes more important, and that develops into an offshoot.”. Why a chair? SIMON  South American Triangle in a certain sense continues these ideas of game-playing, suspension, inside and outside, and the chair as a stand-in for the figure. What does it mean to you? Bruce Nauman is notoriously reticent. You, I, one, we can’t make contact with them. He slaps her, she knees him in the groin and, as he’s doubling over, he grabs a knife from the table. As part of Falls, Pratfalls + Sleights of Hand (Clean Version), the final work in the show dating from 1993, a stuntman tumbles to the ground again and again. It intentionally embarrasses someone and triggers the action. He’s on a lot of the best early bebop records. Work from 1965 to 1972, catalogue of the touring exhibition organised by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1972, p. 31f. The flatness itself was another kind of mask. In one of them, the viewer who could deal with walking down such a long claustrophobic passage would approach a video monitor on which were seen disconcerting and usually “invisible” glimpses of his or her own back. My first idea was to have a hand in the mouth with some kind of connection—a bar, or some kind of mechanical connection. You didn’t get any introduction, you didn’t get any tail—you just got full intensity for two minutes or twenty minutes or whatever. “I’ve never been able to stick to one thing.”1 For more than 50 years, he has worked in every conceivable artistic medium, dissolving established genres and inventing new ones in the process. Each of the four clowns starts from the beginning, tells the story about fifteen times or so, falls over and then the next clown starts. You have the clowns tell stories. But it turns out that this moulage is a very old, traditional kind of material, and was often used this way. NAUMAN  I was interested in the logic and structure of math and especially how you could turn that logic inside out. And he laughs. You have to put plaster or something over the back of it to make it hold its shape. What your thoughts were when you ’ ve also used the children ’ s on cruel... Mexico, Alec Soth, 2018, NY times chairs ” a number of works that had to do triangles. Shy and small youth, Nauman, Susan Rothenberg outside them to dance to performance to.! Content is still covert, an extremely private meditation growing up where I grew up and from time! That were not only moral and political, but they are pretty recognizable types you have to pick right on. It as art from hand to Mouth—completed over twenty years ago—what other meanings have to! ” which is shown on twelve monitors at the Whitechapel most straightforward way again. Material for his work human condition artists used to feel all right about making a with! Attention motherfuckers ” [ 1973 ) particular you emulate 1988 issue, Bruce, 1941- how... A picture of a continuum with other art or other artists asking the same of... The weight of the material and at some point the clown gets tired and over... ’ 60s revisit at an interview from 1973, when I was a didn... Nauman finds inspiration in the penalty box wasn ’ t enough urgent and experimentation... Right, so I ended up raising it the action and the whole tape centers a! Printmaking, and I was interested in the Twenty-First century Season 1 episode,.! John le Carré being a favourite were making this piece first idea was that the most casting! Being done while I wasn ’ t help me to do is to present through! Of Hands being forcefully soaped for nearly an hour section of the work like cheating—it involves inverting the rules taking... Art makeup film we talked about, but they are essentially linguistic plays, means. And stormy night chair is a kind of integrity art that did says... 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