MoMA/ MoMA PS1 NEW YORK.
✍🏼WRITING WHILE LISTENING TO TIMES SQUARE IN THE AM🎧
I want to relive this like a trauma. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: Reading Peter Schjeldahl’s New Yorker review of the Bruce Nauman MoMA retrospective while Halloween screams for attention amid the sleepless tinsel and jingle of a New York A.M. The thought of being a habitual hack rides passenger (what cowboy Bruce might call “rides shotgun”) to my reading. Habit is always eminent; for artists, for all. The thought is for Schjeldahl though, not Nauman. Not Nauman. Never Nauman. nNNNNNOOOO! [MONDAY, MoMA]: ill-conceived baby-mobile contraption rotates iller animal casts in illest palette leaving black skid marks on MoMA floor. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: Schjeldahl confesses he has grown to “like” not “dislike” Bruce Nauman’s art, intimating the latter the more apt register; that “liking” it just aestheticises it, commodifies it, not ‘commodes’ it. Don’t write then, Please!: art criticism doesn't have to be an obligation. [MONDAY, MoMA]: Wearing white T-shirt, hipster beard and fuzzy black and white analogue video fuzz, an angular and magnetic Bruce Nauman manipulates T-bar with short movements that rise and fall like a curved line rising and falling on a graph. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: Schjeldahl is definitely not the writer he once was at the short-lived Seven Days Art Columns and recently deceased Village Voice when urgency and energy trumped self-conscious grammar. Reading Schjeldahl then made me want to write inside fear and outside habit, outside myself—what Bruce Nauman the narcissist (the detached alliteration just perfect for the occasion) has managed to achieve for 50 years. [MONDAY, MoMA]: Crusty wax cast masks smooch MoMA wall as water pisses backwards out through spooky cavities into twin sinks and plastic 5-gallon plastic buckets making sounds that accompany long hot summers. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: Bleary-eyed and vengeful, hoping against hope that Schjeldahl’s prosaic affirmations is the language of a hack who has become jaded due to habit over fear (No offence but I traveled one eight of the globe to experience Bruce Nauman at MoMA!) Anyway: Why write if Bruce Nauman (or any artist) has become a habit over fear, broken-in tame instead of rearing wild? I've waded through the cream of Schjeldahl’s prose, sticky page after sticky page, where lesser artists edge an orgasm, literary speaking. Nauman naught. [MONDAY, MoMA]: Teenager sprays drum kit with flurry of beats as furtive surveillance ferrets out furry rat nuzzling Skinnerian box. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: Schjeldahl ought to take a page from his lucid observations on Bruce Nauman's “legendary artist block” or the artist's craft for “[finishing] only just enough to embody their ideas”. I think of Schjeldahl reborn after losing his New Yorker job, cutting loose from the institution’s and reader's expectations of him to be Schjeldahl. I would love that, fear that, want that. What a blunt sword habit forges. There's no fear in Bruce Nauman’s art because he does what all people tend to do with fear by projecting it onto family, friend, therapist, dog or OCD. But Bruce is not your brother, sister, dad, mam, friend, therapist, dog, or your OCD. He’s an artist who illuminates instead of sublimates. And like all the best artists, art is his charm, his talisman, his fetish, depending on the wax and wane of the moon. [MONDAY, MoMA]: Blue cursive neon spells out bbbbbrrrrrrrrruuuuuuucccccceeee AS THOUGH IT WERE WRITTEN ON THE SURFACE OF THE MOON (1968). [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: Artists keep stuff to themselves in order to overshare in their work in albeit covert and perverse ways. The best artists do anyway. Bruce Nauman is an artist who’s never failed to take risks with himself for his art so we, as observers, feel unsafe and unsteady year after decade after half a century of Bruce Nauman eating his own words in an effort to embody language at its pre-verbal centre. gaga, googoo. [MONDAY, MoMA]: Nauman skilfully rides saddle in magenta twilight. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: (Other artists are vampire pale in comparison—Bruce has sucked them dry.) It's as if Schjeldahl touched upon something dark in Bruce Nauman's neon orgies and tortured clowns and verbally retreated before articulating something darker in himself. Words are dangerous. If Bruce Nauman is a narcissist—as Schjeldahl freely admits—then he makes narcissists of us too if we are willing to look in the dark, dark mirror that the artist upturns as unadulterated sediments and fragments of self. Us. [MONDAY, MoMA]: Four Naumans—double the narcissism—apply dirty makeup against a golden urine light. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: As fictional father describes fictional daughter in Don DeLillo's Point Omega as hearing “words from inside them”, Bruce Nauman too lives and listens inside language. His words wear ears; the otic feelers go deep. Folding himself and language in on themselves through ever so simple performative procedures and verbal gestures to enter the navel of a dream lit with a neon beat and shadowed by the artist's once quarterback-square angles to now drooping clown body-double, this is the meeting place of brain and body, a gibberish gestalt that fucks and sucks. [MONDAY, MoMA]: Pete and Repeat were sitting on a wall. Pete fell off. Who was left? Repeat. Pete and Repeat were sitting on a wall. Pete fell off. Who was left? Repeat.Pete and Repeat were sitting on a wall. Pete fell off. Who was left? Repeat. [SUNDAY, HOTEL]: Schjeldahl’s reviews of recent years don't delight in the present moment. The Schjeldahl of the present is indebted to the past, where memory subjugates energy, where feet are grounded, not slipping and sliding upon the sweaty anxieties and fantasies of the treadmill present. My wife said it better than Schjeldahl and I have in over 2000 words when we sat in a diner two minutes from MoMA PS1 as she pointed out how many rapist vans were lurking around Queens—no doubt a physical and mental association to the Nauman experience: “I need to wash my brain.” I want to relive this like a trauma. Repeat.
Bruce Nauman at MoMA/PS1 N.Y. Through February 2019.