Sculpture Journal

The body of the text: Bruce Nauman’s instructions

Sculpture Journal (2015), 24, (3), 391–405.

Abstract

Between 1969 and 1975 Bruce Nauman produced a series of artworks in the form of written instructions, which can be aligned with art’s supposed linguistic turn of the late 1960s and 1970s. Taking into account sculpture’s significance in Nauman’s early artistic development, this article explores the artist’s instructions in relation to his engagement with sculpture’s traditional processes of casting and mould making. It suggests that Nauman’s instructions were informed by the logic of the sculptor’s mould, which articulates an exact form by delimiting the space of an absent sculpture, and claims that Nauman’s instructions use language to bring their reader’s attention to their own corporeality. Re-examining Nauman’s instructions in the context of sculpture not only presents new discussion of these works, but also signposts the limitations of accounts of conceptual art in which the body’s significance is denied as part of a repudiation of aesthetic experience.

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Author details

Johnson, Elizabeth