The exhibition showcases Bruce Nauman‘s (b.1941, Fort Wayne) most striking works of the last two decades. It also reveals the often unexplored parallel between the artist’s abstract video and sound works, which focus on his exploration of the human voice and body, and his monumental installations, rich with spiritual and environmental references.
The show reflects the artist’s continued interest in linking his works to their environment and intensifying the audience’s physical and emotional experience of his pieces. The immersive works on display were thus chosen for their resonance with the Fondation Cartier building, and emphasize the contrast between the transparency of the ground floor and the enclosed lower level.
Presented for the first time in France at the Fondation Cartier, this thoughtful selection of multimedia installations, sound and video works, and sculptures reflects the multifaceted nature of Bruce Nauman’s artistic practice. The artist plays with notions of transparency and immateriality on the ground floor, where the spaces and their surroundings are seemingly almost empty, but contain three powerful recent works. In the garden, the sound piece For Beginners invites visitors to listen to the musician Terry Allen as he plays the piano. The score is composed from a set of instructions by Nauman, which direct the placement of the pianist’s hands on the piano keys. The artist’s most recent work, Pencil Lift/Mr. Rogers , is on display in the large gallery. This video is presented in dramatic proportions on a large LED screen, allowing the images to almost float in space. A continuation of his exploration of hands and physicality in previous projects, Pencil Lift/Mr. Rogers transforms simple actions – tricks performed by fingers and pencils in the artist’s studio – into ambiguous signs and optical illusions, playing with sensations of tension and balance. In the adjacent gallery, visitors hear Nauman’s voice tirelessly repeating, “For children.” Despite its simplicity, the meditative sound piece For Children is unexpectedly complex, as various associations emerge related to play, education, and pushing mental and physical limits. For Children has been adapted by the artist especially for this exhibition, and will be premiered here in both English and French.
In the galleries on the lower level, three multimedia sculptures infuse the show with compelling visual elements and visceral experiences that differ from the works on the ground floor. The large-scale video installation Anthro/Socio (Rinde Facing Camera) contains the first appearance of a human face in the exhibition. It is repeated on 6 monitors and 3 projection screens, instantaneously involving the audience by facing it head on. Rinde Eckert, a performance artist and trained singer, chants the same sets of words loudly and continuously (“Feed Me/Eat Me/Anthropology,” for example), confronting visitors with the ontological desire to make human connections. Facing Eckert, in the sculpture Carousel (Stainless steel version), casts of dismembered deer and greyhounds hanging by their necks from beams slowly turn as if on a carousel. Some of them drag and scrape along the floor, creating an irritating noise. Concluding the exhibition, Untitled is a performance and video installation originally created for the 1970 Tokyo Biennale and revisited in 2009 for Bruce Nauman’s participation in the Venice Biennale. Following the artist’s instructions set out in advance, two dancers roll clockwise on a carpet to the point of exhaustion. The result is a profound experience of time passing, while also recalling the artist’s early works in which he mapped his studio by recording his own movements through the space.