May 31st, 2019
Light, Color and Experience
When I entered the gallery where this piece is installed, the contrast between an open room, and the brightly lit, narrowing walls was strong. What to do? Go in? Watch others pass through this space? Unlike traditional galleries, in here I had to choose and to act.
Despite choking thoughts of earthquake and the irrational fears of claustrophobia I entered the corridors. Nauman designed the space and planned color to heighten our experience-high intensity fluorescent blue and yellow lights direct me through the space, which is small enough that I must turn sideways to get through. Video cameras record my movement on live feed, so I have the disquieting experience of seeing myself disappearing around corners in black and white, while my eyes are filled with color.
Nearly fifty years after its’ design, Blue and Yellow Corridor is finally realized. We can walk through the space, experiencing it individually. Traversing this tight, bright space I feel disquieting tension-I see myself in black and white, squeezing through a small and smaller space. Brilliant light floods the space, yet the video image I can see is black and white. I see and feel two distinct realities-and I choose light and color.
Bruce Nauman is an American artist whose works in the 1960s and 70s combined diverse medium- drawing, printmaking, film and performance art. Nauman pioneered the inclusion of process and activity in his work, being one of the first Americans to use his body and actions as part of his palette. The installation we’ll explore today includes many elements that mark Nauman’s work-it’s a participatory environment that invites us in with little direction to guide us. Designed in 1970-71, this is one of forty corridors, rooms and installations which were built for exhibitions.
This installation is imposing, mysterious and enigmatic. Nauman uses controlled space in his installations, inspired by early filmed performance pieces where repetitive actions were constrained by his small studio. He intentionally uses the constraint of confining space as part of the composition, using it almost like a new tool. The outside of this installation is simple, the inside both intriguing and ominous. I’m curious, but wary.
To learn more about this exhibition, visit https://manettishremmuseum.ucdavis.edu/