Bruce Nauman’s Disappearing Acts at MOMA PS1 contains, among several, a focus on viscerally affecting installations. These works make the viewers feel frightened, trapped, or surrounded, while simultaneously feeling pleasure and excitement. These engaging installations ask the viewers to question what the artist wants the viewer to feel as opposed to see.
Double Steel Cage Piece (1974) elicits claustrophobia and joy with its 10-inch walkway between two steel cages. The thought that one is trapped causes a confluence of excitement and fear. Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of This Room (1968), a sound installation in an empty room, is composed of Nauman whisper-growling on top of a soundscape, projecting Americana introspection with a dash of horror. Clown Torture (1987), a video installation, features a clown crying while being tortured. It is gleefully disturbing, making the viewer identify with both the distress of the character and the satisfaction at the punishment of a dark cultural figure.
Nauman’s installations make the viewers question whether the art is the sound, the image, or the experience that the viewers have. The work causes a guttural, thought-provoking response that makes the viewing about the internal experience rather than the aesthetic of the work.