Bruce Nauman

Tate Liverpool
Admission £4 (£3)
On display until 28th August 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Bruce Nauman inhabits a world that resembles a Samuel Beckett nightmare – complete with cages, snarling faces and repetitive actions. But then we all do, so this gallery of the grotesque is strangely accessible.

This retrospective brings together creations from across four decades, and shows just why Indiana-born Nauman is the conceptual artist’s conceptual artist. Taking in sculpture, photography, drawing, neon, video and just about any media you care to mention, we are taken on a voyage into the deepest recesses of the human mind.

His early pieces were mostly concerned with intricate wordplay, which is all very clever but quite annoying after a while. His experimental stuff is a lot more interesting, partly because most of it requires some participation from the viewer. Kids love it, because there is so much for them to do, and their scampering about actually helps to bring Nauman’s creations to life. For example, in ‘Get Out of My Mind, Get Out of This Room’, any intruders are told to leave by the artist’s disembodied and eerily insistent voice.

In one typical piece of wordplay, Nauman decided that since he was an ‘artist’, anything he did in a ‘studio’ must be considered ‘art’. So he played a note on a violin whilst walking around the studio, in 'Playing a Note on a Violin While I Walk Around the Studio'. For an hour. Though things like this opened the door for some of today’s ridiculous postmodern ‘artists’, at least Nauman seems to be searching for meaning. It shifts and shuttles away as you chase it, but it is there, somewhere in the labyrinth.

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