Bruce Nauman

Three Dead End Adjacent Tunnels, Not Connected


Not on display

Bruce Nauman born 1941
Cast iron
Displayed: 630 × 2860 × 2476 mm
Presented by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery 1992


Nauman began working with quasi-architectural spaces in the late 1960s. In his corridor installations, such as Corridor with Mirror and White Lights 1971 (Tate T01753), he constructed spaces which disorientate the viewer through the use of mirrors, sound or video cameras. The interior spaces created in these works aimed to disrupt and examine individual behaviour. The artist gradually expanded them to confront larger social and political issues, planning to create 'uncomfortable spaces and shapes even on a very large scale for lots and lots of people' (Nauman quoted in Bruce Nauman 1994, p.33).

In 1972 Nauman began to make drawings for a series of proposed tunnel pieces. He began building the sculptural models in 1977, using scrap materials and a rough, unfinished method of construction to create works which appear to be maquettes rather than architectural structures. They vary in scale from small cardboard collage-like structures to huge fibreglass and plaster sculptures. Many are suspended by wire from the ceiling; others sit on supports on the floor. Having studied maths at university, Nauman retained a fascination with geometric equations, particularly the relationship between squares, circles and triangles. 'I find triangles really uncomfortable, disconcerting kinds of spaces. There is no comfortable space to stay inside them or outside them. It's not like a circle or square that gives you security.'(Nauman quoted in Simon, p.147.) Providing potential spaces for containment and connection between bodies, the tunnels are evocative of confinement and claustrophobia. In Three Dead End Adjacent Tunnels, Not Connected the need for communication within and between these proposed internal spaces is displayed as thwarted and impossible. As the title indicates, the three triangular-shaped spaces, which themselves form a triangle, are in contact with each other but not in communication. A metaphor for human relations within a group, they present a bleak comment on self-containment, confinement and isolation. This sculpture is the finished version of a plaster and wood construction of 1979; it is a unique piece. In this year Nauman moved to Pacos, New Mexico, where he built a new studio.

Further reading:
Neal Benezra, Kathy Halbreich, Bruce Nauman, exhibition catalogue, Walker Arts Centre, Minneapolis 1994
Joan Simon: 'Breaking the Silence: an interview with Bruce Nauman', Art in America, September 1988, pp.141-8, 203
Coosje van Bruggen, Bruce Nauman, New York 1988, reproduced (colour) p.69

Elizabeth Manchester
August 2000

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Display caption

Nauman made a series of tunnel works in wood and plaster, which he subsequently cast in iron. In this work, three tunnels frustratingly fail to intersect and lead nowhere. Propped up on steel supports, they seem to float in space as if they existed in a parallel universe. The artist has commented 'I find triangular spaces really uncomfortable, disorientating kinds of spaces, not like a circle or a square that give you security.'

Gallery label, August 2004

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