Week 13 / by MK luff

Bruce Nauman at MoMA and MoMA PS 1


Overall I preferred the exhibit at PS 1 over the exhibit at MoMA. While there were some great pieces at MoMA the setting made the work feel sterile, and completely removed from all the context in which Nauman created. In contrast the works at PS 1 blended seamlessly into the various rooms within the museum, and allowed for a much more intimate experience of Nauman’s work. Much of Nauman’s work feels like rough experiments, the lines are not perfect, the sketches are done quickly and often iterated on multiple times and with a variety of materials to experiment with creating new forms from a single idea. At PS 1 you are guided through those experiments because of the setup of the museum, but at MoMA the presentation felt flat and too clean.

The one piece I really enjoyed at MoMA that also felt appropriate in the space was Days. In contrast to Nauman’s older work Days is much more meditative and refined. Its presentation within a large white walled room added to the way in which it disrupted our concepts of the passage of time. The thin flat speakers perfectly aligned and created a neat and refined corridor for visitors to pass through, which then became disorienting as the array of voices listed off the days of the week but in random order. Nauman took a sequence that is fundamental to how we organize our lives, presented it in a clean and precise way, and then turned it on its head making us question the somewhat arbitrary way in which we define the passage of time.

For my exhibition proposal I wrote about Nauman’s corridors, and upon viewing them at PS 1 they did not disappoint. Nauman does an incredible job at making us hyper aware of the space we occupy - how our own physical being fills up a space and interacts with it. I tried to get the key for Nauman’s corridor at MoMA, but unfortunately the list was already filled for the day. I can only imagine it would have been one of the better experiences in that exhibit as it would have allowed you a moment away from the white walls of the museum, encapsulated in a strange tight corridor all alone, yet surrounded by the hundreds of museum goers only a foot away on the other side of the wall.

Stelarc The Body is Obsolete

Do we really want to reduce ourselves down to purely functional robots? To become immortal by removing the inadequacies of our physical forms. We learn from those inadequacies, those are what often push us to find new solutions. This idea of post-evolutionary strategies that Stelarc mentions is fascinating. Instead of being formed by the world around us we are striving to become the puppet masters who have unfettered control over every aspect of life in order to “perfectly” craft it. This feels like something unique to the modern human species, this idea that we will not become extinct like most other species before us. This idea that in our short existence as a species we have developed rapidly enough to outwit the universe. Maybe we have. Maybe our technology will allow us to manipulate evolution in such away that allows some version of this species to carry on indefinitely. But at what point is that no longer human? All of this just reminds me of Don Herzfedlt’s World of Tomorrow. Our bodies are inadequate vessels so eventually we will just upload our minds into the ether where they can safely survive and evolve without the physical limitations.