Tate Liverpool Fourth floor galleries
19 May – 28 August 2006
Forty years after his first solo exhibition, Tate Liverpool presents the largest exhibition in Europe of the American artist Bruce Nauman since 1998. Regarded as one of the most influential artists working today, Nauman has been a significant inspiration for many artists over several decades. Focusing upon his frustration with the human condition by examining forms of human behaviour, Make Me Think Me is divided into two parts. The first half explores his use of language, its success and failure as our fundamental means of communication, and is juxtaposed with his examination of physical and mental activity in the second.
Nauman studied mathematics and physics as an undergraduate and approaches art making as a process of investigation, creating experiments in which his subjects are analytically tested. He explores art’s potential as an instrument to investigate the human condition and the systems and structures that determine human behaviour.
The exhibition opens with neon works, sound pieces, sculpture, video and works on paper that incorporate wordplay. Language is tested to the point at which meanings multiply and syntax no longer functions. Also included are instructional pieces, such as Shit in Your Hat - Head on a Chair 1990, where language is used as a tool to control.
In the second half of the exhibition the subject shifts from the artist’s own body to that of the viewer. Alone in his studio, with little money for materials, Nauman’s early explorations of human behaviour were based upon his own movement. Recording himself performing simple, repetitive tasks, such as walking around a square, his mundane actions became emblematic of a wider human condition. The movement and reactions of the audience are subject to examination in installations such as Corridor Installation (Nick Wilder Installation) 1971 and Double Steel Cage Piece 1974. To enter these uncomfortable environments is to become a performer, yet, predetermined by the artist, our movement is always controlled.
The exhibition culminates with a selection of Nauman’s animal and head casts, including Three Heads Fountain (Andrew, Juliet, Rinde) 2005. The casts are confrontational and force a reassessment of our own behaviour and relationship to nature. Hanging almost playfully like a child’s mobile, they function as symbols through which Nauman makes some of his most powerful assessments of human nature to date.