Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Rose Has No Teeth, But The Camera Has An Eye

The Bruce Nauma exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum has very many facets, from sculptures to videos to photos. One of the things common to all of them is they all represent an edgy new way of approaching and looking at art. Yet, while many of the techniques Nauman used are considered groundbreaking, I did see many connections to the works and concepts we have studied in class so far.

The one that stood out the most to me was the film entitled, “Manipulating the T-Bar.” In this film, Nauman films himself sideways, picking up a metal t-bar, and placing it back down. Then, he picks it up, turns it, and places it back down. Through this movie, he is first combining art forms, film and sculpture. He is also manipulating the sculpture, turning the viewing experience into a new way of looking at art, seeing how sculptures do not usually move, but he is using his body as a vehicle to move it, and thus, his body is the vehicle through which the change can be seen. I saw this as very similar to a scene in Vertov’s, Man With A Movie Camera. You see Vertov physically standing behind the camera, both very large, towering over the entire city. This speaks to the same purpose, seeming to say that Vertov is using his own body to physically manipulate the camera to achieve his new and groundbreaking type of art. In addition, the act of filming Nauman manipulation the t-bar also speaks to showing the process of making the art in the actual art piece itself. This also has links in Vertov’s work. In Vertov’s film, the viewer sees a person actually physically clipping and splicing film rows together. This serves two purposes. First, it represents the new way Vertov approached his art by showing how the camera can manipulate the potential of the human eye, but it also shows the process behind this art. Similarly, Nauman is using his manipulations of the t-bar to create a new way of approaching art, but at the same time, it also shows the process behind creating the art.

The second concept that stood out to me in Nauman’s work as similar to the concepts of our class was his idea of an absent presence. For this, I will focus on his sculpture of pieces of blue neon tubing, molded to his body, with measurements taken at ten-inch intervals. This represents a different way of approaching art because the tubing creates a sense of presence, but there is not a direct appearance. There is a sense of something that had been there, so a sense of absence is created. There is, also, very little insight into what the artist was thinking or feeling at the time as it is just a sign that he or she has been there. I saw a similarity in this piece to the concepts from Camera Lucida. When you look at a photograph, you experience a “certificate of presence,” meaning whatever is in the photograph was in front of the camera at some point. It shows there was a presence there at some point, but also creates a sense of absence because that thing that was there at one point is not longer with us. Thus, Nauman’s work does the same thing. The tubing gives us a sense the artist was there at one point, but also creates a sense of absence because it is just the tubing now, and the artist is absent.



Blogger RachelK said...

I found your discussion of the blue tubing really interesting and relatable to what we read about in Camera Lucida. When you view a photograph (or in this case the blue tubing that represents the artist's bodys at a random interval), there is this idea that the artist is somehow still present in the piece (perhaps more present than in other types of art). With a photograph, the camera captures an image that is there and in theory, the image represented in the photograph is present (if only in a two dimensional way). Nauman's piece, on the other hand, was different from a photographic representation because it was three dimensional.

3/04/2007 4:45 PM  
Blogger Silbi Song said...

I love the title of your post! =)

3/04/2007 8:32 PM  
Blogger Alex K said...

I really enjoyed your response. In the first half of the exhibition, I found myself wondering what the exhibition had to do with Machine time/Time Machine and how all this applied to our class. Your comparisons between the Bruce Nauma exhibit and the works we've read in class are very interesting and intriguing. In particular, I like the connection between Vertov's Man with a movie Camera and many of Nauma's artworks where he is part of the art. He is directly involved with not only creating the artwork, but also of a part of the work itself - presenting it or even manipulating it.

3/04/2007 10:40 PM  
Blogger Tom M said...

Great observations. I particularly enjoyed the use of negative space in this phase of Nauman's work. I think Nauman had a good sense of humor; at least, I personally found a number of his pieces to be very funny. I got a kick out of "The space below my chair," turning negative space into positive space with a block of concrete. Nauman's style is also, as you say, similar to Vertov's highly experimental approach -- I think both artists were driven by the principle of constantly trying to make us look at things in new ways (cf guiding the Kino-Eye to force us to look at something the way the cameraman/director sees it). In this respect, Nauman's art is more "artsy" than a lot of what is classically considered "art." Form and subject in conventional, well-accepted art can be very imitative but Nauman challenges both and forces us to reconsider the ordinary. My "emotional response" was to laugh at a lot of the novel, playful approaches that Nauman employed. bbbbbbrrrrrruuuuuuccccceeee. The person who said they had no emotional response has perhaps not noticed that they themselves were offended and annoyed by the presentation and celebration in a public space of what they personally did not consider to be "art."

3/05/2007 10:15 AM  

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