Room 2: Get out of this room

Bruce Nauman Tony Sinking into the Floor, Face Up and Face Down 1973

Bruce Nauman
Tony Sinking into the Floor, Face Up and Face Down
1973
Video, colour, sound
60 minutes repeated continuously

Electronic Arts Intermix, New York © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2006

Bruce Nauman Shit in Your Hat – Head on a Chair 1990

Bruce Nauman
Shit in Your Hat – Head on a Chair 1990
Video projection, chair, wax head, screen and steel cable
Dimensions variable

Collection of Contemporary Art Fundació ‘la Caixa’, Barcelona © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2006

Nauman acknowledges language as a powerful tool and one that can be used to control. In Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of This Room 1968, a work that exists purely as sound, he recorded himself repeating the title in different ways: ‘I yelled it and growled it and grunted it.’ The work both invites and rejects the audience as they enter a public space yet are told immediately to leave; a conflict of information found in much of the artist’s work.

In 1973 Nauman filmed two actors he had instructed to lie on a concrete floor and imagine themselves sinking into it or that it was rising up over them. The resulting footage of Tony and Elke is alarming. Language has been used to direct a psychological experiment in which its participants are seen trembling and choking for air. In Shit in Your Hat – Head on a Chair 1990 the audience again watches a performer following a set of instructions. Subtle variations in the spoken script direct a performance that becomes increasingly humiliating.

Language has also been used by the artist to make demands of the audience. In Body Pressure 1974, the viewer is required to follow a set of printed instructions, encouraging an exercise that becomes trance-like.

The works in this room use language to initiate a type of behavioural science in ‘experiments’ that stimulate physical and mental behaviour and promote an awareness of body and mind. The instructional texts become a form of Gestalt therapy, something Nauman studied informally in 1967.