Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bruce Nauman, viscerally effecting installation, Disappearing Acts, MOMA PS1

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.


  1. It is difficult to write such a short review for such a retrospective that spans an art’s entire career. Especially one as materially diverse as Nauman’s. I think you did a good job of finding distinct pieces that implied a commonality in theme in the show. While I think, these pieces have similar “guttural” or visceral effects, another option would be to compare a few pieces that are more varied, perhaps creating a broader understanding of the show. Or you could pick one piece to describe in detail and then use that to link a few other pieces in the show that on the surface seem more divergent.

  2. I also find the Double Steel Cage Piece very impressive. When viewers could interact with the art work, we could feel more emotionally connected to the artist's feeling. I like the way that you describe these feelings in detail and analyze how this kind of engagement valuable to viewers. Since we have work limits, it would be great if you could narrow your selection to one piece of art and talk more about your own reflection. Thank you for sharing!

  3. For the Double Steel Cage Piece, I did not think of any claustrophobia and anxiety. I felt the tension of the relationship between the space and the human body which was mostly thrill and majestic feeling.

    Connecting the piece to Americana introspection is interesting. I felt the human's emotional condition of anxiety and weakness that one cannot say in front of others.

    The Clown Torture piece was alarming and at the same time ludicrous to me. Unlike America, in Korea, a clown is very unfamiliar. It is interesting to see that both of us had the same negative feeling in spite of cultural differences.

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