On 17th November 2017, I was, like a moth, instantly attracted to the bright lights of the Bruce Nauman exhibition (Tate Modern). His work demanded the viewer to (literally) take a step back and consider the purpose and context of his work. Nauman's extensive and imaginative use of media transmits a multitude of different ideas simultaneously. It is clear that his previous studies in Mathematics and Physics informed his practice and are a domineering influence on his work. One piece which caught my attention was 'Violins, Violence, Silence' (1981).
Violins, Violence, Silence
The artwork itself was made of coloured neon tubing with a clear glass suspension frame. As the letters overlap, it is hard to initially distinguish what the piece is actually conveying, proving rather disorientating. Additionally, the buzzing noise which accompanies the piece (originating from the neon tubing) is somewhat distracting. However, it is ironic that while reading 'violins' evokes a pure and unpolluted noise, in reality you are faced with a low, droning buzz. I enjoy the irony of Nauman's work and the complex ideas which lie behind the lights. There is much more to this piece than is initially apparent and I hope that other visitors to the gallery take the time to consider its complexity.
Another piece in the exhibition which caught my attention was 'Raw Material Washing Hands'(1996). The video, which documents one individual washing their hands constantly for 55 minutes is difficult viewing. It is reminiscent of a person suffering from obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) in which the individual is performing a routine repeatedly, as though it were a ritual. The video becomes painful to watch as we see the individuals skin being overworked by the soap and water and I must admit that although the video runs for just under an hour, I watched it for no longer than 10 minutes.
Raw Material Washing Hands,
After seeing Nauman's work, it is clear that he questions and stretches the boundaries of what it is to make art. He has purposefully left behind traditional notions of 'fine art' and has distanced himself from paint as a medium.
Marvin Gaye Cetwynd ‘Ze and Per’
To mark the end of the Easter term, a group of the MA Painters went to visit and explore some of the galleries nestled in London’s urban jungle. One of these was Marvin Gaye Chetwynd’s exhibition, Ze & Per, a show which encouraged imagination and thought. One of the mounted structures was interactive, which allowed us to engage closely with the piece in a way which we are often unable to. Further, the bright colours and ‘beasts’ depicted in the paintings, and giant reliefs, led to discussions amongst peers, as they reminisced about trips to the theatre or creating work for school shows and productions. Another aspect of the exhibition that made me reflect back was the title, ‘Ze’ and ‘Per’, two gender neutral pronouns. Gender and is fluidity is a key aspect of my current studio practice and so any exhibition which explores its boundaries interests me. Chetwynd has been subject to news articles after changing her name (not legally) from Alalia to Spartacus in 2006, and then, again, to Marvin in 2013. Chetwynd has previously noted that adopting new names has proven incredibly interesting, as it is curious to see what type of people objected and why they chose to voice their concerns. Inevitably, actions such as these expose the prejudice latent in society, which is often felt by members of the trans community. With an interview with the Guardian in 2013, Chetwynd notes her father’s initial uneasiness and reluctance when she chose to adopt a male name instead of her ‘female’ birth-name. However, the name change was not a result of Chetwynd’s belief that she was not aligned with the gender assigned to her at birth, but was, rather, performative. This seems, once again, to be reflected in her work, as one feels when walking into the exhibition they are walking into a performance and are sometimes, even performing themselves.