Unreal Nature

June 28, 2018

If I Go Further

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… If I go further, it would take away something, or do something, that would throw me off the track.

This is from Jan Butterfield’s 1975 interview titled ‘Bruce Nauman: The Center of Yourself’ found in Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words: Writings and Interviews edited by Janet Kraynak (2003):

[ … ]

Jan Butterfield: I am interested in examining some of your attitudes about “art.” There has to be some common ground, some societal overlap for pieces to be “visible” to others besides yourself. How little of that can we have and still have an “art form,” rather than individual exercise on your part? I am interested in determining whether or not you are conscious of where the boundaries are.

Bruce Nauman: Not consciously. I don’t necessarily think consciously aware. I am sure that I think about that, and would really like to be working at the edge of that. What I am really concerned about is what art is supposed to be — and can become. It seems to me that painting is not going to get us anywhere, and most sculpture is not going to either, and art has to go somewhere.

[line break added] What I see now is interesting. I think that the overlap (the societal overlap you were talking about) is the part we see now. It may seem familiar, and at some point we may be able to look back and say, “Well at some point we saw an overlap, and that was wrong — the important part was way out there somewhere.” Do you see what I mean? This thing about obscurity?

[line break added] Everybody is going about looking for what is going to be “next” in terms of art, and it will probably turn out that it is something that has been going on all of the time. It’s just that we have tunnel vision. We are looking at the wrong part of it, or too small a part of it, and we are missing all of that stuff going on out there — at the edges.

[ … ]

JB: … I think the control factor is a very interesting aspect of your work.

BN: I think that if you can control the situation physically, then you can have a certain amount of similarity. People are sufficiently similar so that you can have at least a similar kind of experience. But, certainly, the private thing can change the experience a great deal in some ways, and I don’t expect to be able to control that. But, on the other hand, I don’t like to leave things open so that people feel they are in a situation they can play games with.

JB: Why not?

BN: Whey do I not like to do that? Well, I think I am not really interested in game playing. Partly it has to do with control, I guess.

JB: That obviously is a key factor in your work: you are not simply setting up an “it is” situation.

BN: Well, some of the pieces have to do with setting up a situation and then not completing it; or in taking away a little of the information so that somebody can only go so far, and then can’t go any farther. It attempts to set up a kind of tension situation. I think it has to do with a personal fear of exposing myself. I can only give so much. If I go further, it would take away something, or do something, that would throw me off the track. We all go so far that we have the fear of exposing ourselves. We really want to expose the information, but, on the other hand, we are afraid to let people in.




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