MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop & flip/flop (fat Chance John Cage), 2001

9H 5', 7 vidéoprojecteurs, 14 haut-parleurs, 15 chaises, 7 scripts,
42 bandes vidéo, NTSC, couleur, son stéréo, 5h45

"Needless to say, the movement-image has not only extensive movements (space), but also intensive movements (light) and affective movements (the soul).[1]

Gilles Deleuze


The different parameters which make it possible to analyse this major work are based on the historical relationship Nauman has with his own works, on research to do with the video medium which the artist recurrently undertakes, and, when all is said and done, on the cross-fertilization between different disciplines, such as the visual arts and music, in this instance, in which the artist has had an interest since the 1960s.


The Studio


The studio which Bruce Nauman maps in this installation is one of the inevitable ingredients of his work. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he put on a large number of experimental performances in his studio, filming them on video, and letting the camera run the whole length of the tape (60 minutes in those days), checking the image on the monitor, not participating in any editing, recording the sound live (his footsteps, his breathing, ambient noise), and structuring the work at the moment of recording by keeping an eye on the image on the monitor.  It should be remembered that, in those days, the video editing table did not exist, and video images and sounds were reproduced in real time.

Where the films and videos are concerned, we can note that Nauman's studio was obviously a white cube similar to minimalist spaces in museums and art galleries.

Subsequently, Nauman sort of transposed his studio into a gallery space by constructing forms capable of communicating to the spectator in person the artist's gestures and attitudes (expectation, passiveness, reflection). The spectator thus became an actor experimenting with the parameters of the work. Going Around the Corner Piece, made in 1970, invites the spectator to walk around a white cube, while four closed-circuit cameras, placed in each corner, film him in search of his image. The spectator thus becomes the work's "activator".

Third stage: in 2001, Nauman filmed the studio empty, mapped it at night, peered into it for one hour a night over a period of 42 nights. He investigated it with a low-definition camera fitted with an infrared mode, and let the camera shoot without handling it, in moving shots, modeled on closed-circuit surveillance filming. "Before I went to bed I'd turn the camera on, and then in the morning I'd go out and see what had happened."[2] The image was not constructed, any more than it was framed or edited. But the features of the image appeared in a random manner dependent upon the camera's movements and the movements of animals (mice, fireflies, and a cat). The sound was likewise surveillance sound, made up of silences and ordinary nighttime noises (fireflies in flight, mouse and cat footsteps, wind in branches, distant trains, etc). It was emitted simultaneously by the seven projections and mingled in space on the basis of the spectators' movements.

The use of security tele-monitoring cameras enabled the artist to disappear as author, and let the world be randomly constructed, depending on the way things panned out. The studio appeared with all its features--tools, bits of works in progress, papers, various equipment and boxes, as well as its nocturnal atmosphere and its impromptu residents. A metaphor of a world apt for reflection, but void of human presence--such is the vision of the studio that Nauman offers us here. Nevertheless, like a firefly, the body of the artist come to recharge the camera's battery appears fleetingly and then instantly vanishes.


The Artist


In 2001, after several years away from the international scene, Bruce Nauman surprised us with the production of this at once spectacular and intimist installation, where he revives the principles of closed circuit works.

No longer keen to appear in his works--and this for several years already--he let it be known that he had still not disappeared from the scene. Like a ghost, phantom or spirit, he was there, but between the lines, as it were, quasi-transparent, and he let us discover that almost abandoned studio, as well as the ambience that might reign therein in the artist's absence. Only our Deleuzian perception, honed by the duration of the work, could capture that mental presence.

During the early years of his career, Bruce Nauman accustomed us to his presence in his work, by his filmed performances, by his hologram portraits, by fragments of plastered bodies, etc. Little by little, the installation--and more specifically the video installation--enabled him to physically withdraw from his work. Clown and actor figures may have played the artist's part for a few years, but nowadays they have given way to the essence: the soul.




In Mapping the Studio, the artist hardly intervenes at all: he does not undertake any shock editing, but he does colour certain sequences, inverts and reverses others, thus reminding us of the early experiments carried out by artists with the video medium (Nam June Paik, for example), and certain works by Andy Warhol (silkscreened works and paintings); in so doing, Nauman emphasized the fact that artists had appropriated this medium to turn it into a critical tool--critical of the media, and critical of visual works.

Here sequences of images and sounds are juxtaposed, shot in a certain formal continuity (same units of time and space), while seven large sound images are associated and projected onto the four walls of a room. So 42 video soundtracks made over 42 nights are cleaned and simply put end to end, without any apparent editing. The same style of representation moves from one shot to the next, from one projection to the next, upset by the colouring of certain images, the reversal and inversion of others, as well as by the sounds roundabout.

Unlike Jean-Luc Godard, who proceeds in his Histoire(s) du cinÈma (1998), among others, by disjunctive associations of apparently eclectic elements--images shot, archival images, fragmentary images from fiction films--and who invites the viewer to imagine within one and the same shot or one and the same sequence the various composite elements of the meaning, Bruce Nauman offers us images which involve the different unities in an indiscernible way. The rhythm provided by this editing is minimal, disturbed by the special effects which the author calls "flip/flop". This editing thus helps to plunge the viewer into a semi-contemplative attitude (the images unfurl before him), but nevertheless requires  him to move from one screen to another to carry out "the editing of the projections".

The viewer of Bruce Nauman's works has this very special role which consists in taking part in their actualization at several levels. The artist sort of delegates one of the constituent parameters of the work to the viewer. At times player, at others go-between, at others still interpreter, the spectator plays a role that is as psychological as it is physical and mental. In Mapping the Studio, Nauman once more proposes that the spectator take part in the editing and mixing of the work's component parts. Unlike the cinematographic device which, with just the odd exception, is known for being head-on, linear and having a relatively narrative structure, the "Naumanian" installation links the work to the viewer by totally involving him/her, and at differing levels: physical, psychological, mental and intellectual. "PheNAUMANology", as Marcia Tucker calls it, is a set of parameters whose "interpretation (and its emotional or psychological corollaries) is conditioned by all other experiences a person has had, and which he involuntarily brings to bear on every new situation. [...] He [Nauman] is no longer interested in ways of making art nor in the "interpretation" of a made object.[...] In this way focus can be directed to the experience and our response to it, rather than to the object itself."[3]

Here, needless to add, what is involved is not a phenomenology of surfaces, but a phenomenology of structures designed to introduce a complex spectator/work relationship.


Fat Chance to John Cage


Some critics, such as Peter Schjeldahl[4] regard this work as an image-accompanied Cage-inspired work. Fat Chance to John Cage, the work's subtitle, seems to be a somewhat sarcastic tribute to the musician, whose works Nauman admires as much as his theory. In the entrance, what is more, on a collection of sheets of A4 paper, the artist hangs the work unfurled, and it functions like a musical score whose constituent parts, even the most elementary ones, are very simply described. The work's overall structure is thus proposed for a reading by the spectator-listener through this script: this latter, which is highly mathematical, is made up of equal sections, divided in turn into unequal subsections.

Not only does Nauman dedicate this work to John Cage, but he focuses on the process whereby the work is formulated, as well as the treasures discovered in the daily nighttime of the studio. Like Cage, he explores uncommon areas of creation: the banality of the artist's life through his usual place of creation, the studio.

The sounds come randomly from everyday things: noises of wind in trees and faraway trains, animal noises, noises and silences which we do not normally pay any attention to. But here, as in some of Cage's works, they are transformed into "ambient music" and put the spectator/listener at the hub of the work.

Through its various parameters here applied, Mapping the Studio offers us a "block of space-time", Deleuze-style, a structure that is more musical than filmic, more environmental than linear, a series of projections that are more immersion-inducing than object-related, whose goal is to turn the studio into a metaphor of the mind, the mind of the artist himself being the metaphor of the human condition.



Christine Van Assche

Translated from the French by Simon Pleasance & Fronza Woods

[1] Gilles Deleuze, L'Image-temps, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1985, p.309.

[2] Michel Auping, "A Thousand Words. Bruce Nauman Talks About Mapping the Studio", Artforum, vol. XL, no.7, March 2003, p.121.

[3] Marcia Tucker, "PheNAUMANology", Artforum, vol. IX, no.4, December 1970, p.38, translated from the American by J.-C. Massera in Christine Van Assche (ed.), "PheNAUMANolgie", Bruce Nauman. Image/texte, 1966-1996, exh. cat, Paris, Editions du Centre Pompidou, 1997, p.82-83.

[4] ""Mapping" is the product of seven soundtracks, the work might be considered a Cagean concert accompanied by images. The visual elements are Cageish, too". (Peter Schjeldahl, "Night Moves", The New Yorker, 28 January 2002, pp.94-95).