Video Artist: Bruce Nauman “Pinch Neck”

Bruce Nauman (born December 6, 1941) is an American artist. His practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing, printmaking, and performance. Nauman lives near Galisteo, New Mexico.

Bruce Nauman is a contemporary artist who is well-known with his neon art works. He uses different materials to articulate his perspective such as; photography, light/neon, video, drawing and performance. Although they use it in a different manner, his way of using his face and the emphasis of a “speech” organ reminds me the Williamson’s video. About Nauman’s works, it can be stated that because the major and the only content of his artworks is his activities or experiences, they are not considered as a film or a video art, instead it is a document of an activity . Regarding to his use of face/body Nauman said he is using his body as a piece of material and manipulating it through his artworks.

Bruce Nauman
Bruce Nauman

“The idea of making faces had to do with thinking about the body as something you can manipulate. I had done some performance pieces – rigorous works dealing with standing, leaning, bending – and as they were performed, some of them seemed to carry a large emotional impact. I was very interested in that: if you perform a bunch of arbitrary operations, some people will make very strong connections with them and others won’t”

I got this quote from (click here)

The quotation above simply illustrates the Nauman’s perspective in making sense out of his artworks. Especially the last sentence, which points out “arbitrariness”, recalls the opposition between sensory motor reaction and critical thought. In Nauman’s work there is neither a dissociation or nor an association, instead there is a thing, which may refer to anything. I communicate with the video both through my sensory motor abilities and thinking patterns. It evokes a certain physical response, which irritates me a bit and on the other hand, it makes me think on how a simple survival activity, as to swallow, or distortion of body places in art. Nauman had various examples in this context; Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk) (1968) can be a good example for how “Nauman was able to alienate himself in a Beckettian manner from his arms and legs, so they seemed to have lives of their own, detached and objectified.”

Pinch Neck 

This video “Pinch Neck” 1968, by Bruce Nauman, “features close-cropped images of Bruce Nauman’s face framed by bridge of his nose to his Adam’s apple by the width of his face. Within this frame Nauman, using his fingers, pinches his lips; pulls his lower lip; pinches his cheeks, pulls his neck; and pulls his lips”. This framing is something that can make the viewer discouraged over the two minutes and will make them want to see the whole body and not a cropped form. This however is playing into the meaning of the video.

“Nauman is attempting to maintain a kind of abstraction while playing in certain kinds of tangible and commonplace subject matter, such as the referents of the statistics found so much in conceptualism”. Nauman could be seen as using his body as a prop. In the Willoughby Sharp article “Body Works,” it is stated that “The body as a prop is related to the use of the body as a backdrop in that the body is presented in relation to other physical objects. But here the body exists in an identifiable field, as one particular among other particulars.” Nauman is using his face as the prop and is using his hands as the other “particulars” in a way to create and stretch his body in to the afore mentioned abstract forms. This stretching, pulling and wrenching of the skin could be viewed as possibly painful and curious. The Element of endurance is once again up for debate.

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