Tate and Unilever today announced that the American artist Bruce Nauman is to undertake the fifth in The Unilever Series of commissions for the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern from 12 October 2004 – 28 March 2005. The current commission in this series, The Weather Project, is by Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
Nauman’s practice is famously diverse. He was one of the first to explore the full range of media, materials and ways of working that were opened up by radical art practice in the 1960s, and are now a central part of contemporary art practice. Moving effortlessly between photography, drawing, text, video, performance, sculpture and installation and inspired by speech, slogans, and the materials of everyday life, he has always striven for immediacy of effect. He has described his work as `Art which was just there all at once’, or which confronted the viewer in a direct and uncompromising way ‘like getting hit in the back of the neck’.
Deeply influenced in his early career by Beckett and Wittgenstein, Nauman is fascinated by the ambiguities and imprecision of language. From the acoustic rhythms of text in an audio piece to the powerful visual impact of one of his many neon signs, Nauman uses words and repetition to investigate the human condition and the nature of art. For instance, in a sound work Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of this Room 1968, the title phrase is uttered in a variety of intonations within an empty room, creating a sense of anxiety in the listener.
Humour and absurdity also feature in Nauman’s work. In a video work Violent Incident 1986, a prank involving a man and a woman is repeated again and again with increasing ferocity, producing an unsettling mix of humour and horror, finally achieving an absurdist and existential climax. Nauman’s is a deeply moral and ethical practice which relates to a broad range of issues. He has said that he is motivated by frustration about the human condition: our innate cruelty and lack of understanding.
Nauman has regularly used his own body in his work, creating casts, taking photographs and making films and performances. The use of his body as well as a close examination of the studio as a place of creative practice and performance, has been part of his desire to unwrap and reveal the processes involved in artmaking.
Vicente Todolí, Director of Tate Modern, comments:
Bruce Nauman’s work over the past forty years in a wide array of media and materials is characterised by threads of continuity as he revisits and transforms key themes in new ways. His entire career can be considered a type of research endeavour exploring a range of visual and conceptual ideas. We look forward to Nauman’s response to the unique space of the Turbine Hall.
Niall FitzGerald, Unilever Chairman, said:
We are delighted that Bruce Nauman has accepted the challenge of creating the fifth commission in The Unilever Series. The Unilever Series is about creativity on a spectacular scale. The depth and breadth of Nauman’s talent promises to rise to this unique challenge in the art world and make the fifth commission a worthy successor to this year’s outstanding installation by Olafur Eliasson.
Nauman was born in 1941 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He studied mathematics, physics, art and music at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and gained an MA in art at the University of California, Davis. He now lives and works on a ranch in northern New Mexico. Nauman’s video, performance art and sculpture have had a profound impact on a younger generation of artists internationally. Numerous private and public collections around the world hold his work, including Tate, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. A major retrospective of Nauman’s work, organised by the Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, travelled throughout America and Europe from 1993 to 1995. In 1998, the Hayward Gallery, London, presented the touring exhibition Bruce Nauman: Image/Text, 1966-1996 organised by Centre Pompidou, Paris.