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Bruce Nauman / mindfuck

January 31, 2013 by Kay

30 January – 9 March 2013 Hauser & Wirth, London

From 30 January, Hauser & Wirth will present ‘Bruce Nauman / mindfuck’ in the North Gallery, Savile Row. Curated by Philip Larratt-Smith, the exhibition features a rigorous selection of works from throughout Nauman’s career, with a particular emphasis on his iconic neon sculptures and installations.

Run from Fear, Fun from Rear, 1972 Neon tubing with clear glass tubing suspension frame Two parts: 20.3 x 116.8 x 5.7 cm / 8 x 46 x 2 1/4 in 18.4 x 113 x 5.7 cm / 7 1/4 x 44 1/2 x 2 1/4 in Private Collection

To speak about the work of Bruce Nauman in the language of psychoanalytic theory is a complex task, given the heterogeneity of his production and the variety of schools of psychoanalytic thought. How is it that the critical discourse surrounding a body of work whose central themes are human nature, the mind-body split, language, sex, death, and aggression, has repressed its obvious psychoanalytic and psychological implications? The experience of certain works by Nauman approximates a state of trauma, equivalent to the conversion symptoms of the hysteric, to the utterances of the psychotic, to the repetition compulsion tied to the death drive, to the reprimands of the superego, to good and bad internal objects, and to the logic of dreams. Undergirding all of his work is an uncanny ability to create visual and experiential equivalents for metapsychology and to tap into the deep structure of the human unconscious.

Untitled (Helman Gallery Parallelogram) (Detail), 1971 Wallboard, green fluorescent lights 458 x 552 x 691 cm / 180 3/8 x 217 x 3/8 x 272 in Glenstone
© 2012 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS London

The exhibition’s title, ‘mindfuck’, is a slang term that may be used as both a noun and verb, situation and action. It can mean to brainwash or manipulate someone, or describe a distressing situation or incomprehensible event. A ‘mindfucker’ is anyone who makes a living by playing with the heads of his clientele, be it a guru, a psychoanalyst, a prostitute, or an artist. Like Nauman’s deceptively simple phrases, which turn on puns and reversals and often defy rational understanding, the vernacular ‘mindfuck’ distills in a single word the dichotomies and aporias that the exhibition proposes to explore, literally yoking together the rational and the intuitive, the verbal and the unutterable, the abstract and the physical.

For more information, visit the Hauser & Wirth website.