Bruce Nauman (b. 1941–) is an American sculptor, photographer and performance artist working with video. He is one of most important and influential figures in contemporary art. His seminal films and videotapes from the 1960s and '70s are among the most innovative contributions to media art. His is an art of exploration: he uses himself, his person and his witty brand of inquiry to examine the parameters of art and the role of the artist. Exploiting the phenomenology of the medium, including its immediacy, space, and intimacy, his real-time gestures investigate the very process of making art. This questioning elicits strong emotional, physical and intellectual responses, and it often results in objects of formal beauty.
This exhibition brings together two distinct but related bodies of video work by Bruce Nauman that investigate the role of the artist and the possibilities of artistic creation within the confines of the studio environment.
In the first group of seven works, created between 1968 and 1973, the figure of Nauman is central, and the artist's body becomes the primary tool, manipulated as if it is a sculptural material. Tension, boredom and importantly, repetition, are played out in these works, which are particularly influenced by the artist's interest in experimental dance, reading of gestalt psychology, the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and above all the strange and seemingly pointless activities of the characters of playwright Samuel Beckett.
The second, singular film, Office edit II with color shift, flip, flop & flip/flop (Fat chance John Cage), Mapping the studio 2001 returns the artist to his preoccupation with the studio as a subject for art. This work, filmed in Nauman's studio in Galisteo, New Mexico, registers the downtime of the creative process – the times in which the muse refuses to appear, and in which very little happens. Watching Office edit, while witnessing an edited version of a past, is also to experience the "activities" of the studio as if in real-time.
Bruce Nauman: Mapping the Studio is a series of screenings from the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra