Bruce Norman’s exhibition review at Tate Modern – Derek Wong

Bruce Norman's exhibition review at Tate Modern - Derek Wong

Bruce Nauman show, overall pretty interesting. I went into this show with zero knowledge of the artist, and a bare minimum understanding of what conceptual art even is.

My attention was immediately grabbed by the spiraling neon light with some words on it, think it’s about the role of a conceptual artist or something rather, I liked it because it’s big, round, and glowy.

The fist piece inside the gallery is a bunch of recordings of random clutter in a room, presented in various hues and orientations. I very much enjoyed sitting on the swivel chair provided at the centre of the work. Spinning on the chair, while glancing at all the recordings which surround my peripheral vision made me feel like Big Brother himself, casting his omnipresent glare onto, well, mainly clutter. I did see a cat popping up somewhere down the line, that was the highlight of the experience. I also heard that apparently a mouse would also show up eventually, sadly we weren’t around to witness the rodent.

The next several pieces have further enhanced my role-playing experience as some kind of security guard, staring at displays of the artist himself doing an assortment of perculiar activities, such as slamming himself into a corner, carrying a stick around, or just walking all weirdly. At this point, I was fully convinced that I am some form of law-enforcer tasked to monitor the habitat and activities of some madman. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of madness in life. We’re all born from chaos, and will eventally return to it, several dashes of madness here or there is just rehearsal, really. This is essentially the reason to why I absolutely adore the two blocks of concrete placed in the middle of the room. One of them was apparently a tape recorder, before angering the mafia and had to take a swim with the fishes. I found the power cable, which is now sticking out of the block of concrete, to be particularly amusing. The other block was casted out of the empty space under a chair, this gave me a good giggle because what was defined to be strictly NOT a chair, can now perfectly function as a chair. If only we were allowed to sit on it.

Took me a lot of brain juice at the time to come up with that last sentence, and the next few pieces were a bit of a blur to me, I vaguely remember feeling uncomfortable seeing the a video of the artist pulling on his face as if he’s adjusting the fit of some hyper-realistic mask. The neon sign puns were cool too, I guess.

Unfortunately, just like most people, the only cure for my short attention span is to see clowns being tortured, sadly I don’t think I’m able to find any of that in the ga- wait hang on, am I hearing the sweet sounds of clowns in agony? This piece has definitely jolted me awake. I’m normally not a big fan of clowns, I find their goofy attire and overly-comical makeup to be rather creepy. But to see them being put in uncomfortable positions somehow makes it better since I could now empathise with them ever so slightly.

The next wake-up-slap of a piece came in the form of multiple rotating bald heads, screaming unintelligibly. I liked those round, meaty heads, there’s this sense of unsettling cuteness to them.

Looking at the word count per paragraph, it’s rather apparent that at that point in time, I am starting to run out of steam. The more I delve deeper into this gallery, the more I started relate to that screaming clown. Even upon exiting the exhibition, I was brought to attention that my suffering had yet to end – there was another piece installed in the stairwell, of all places. As I took the elevator up to the top floor, only to walk back down again just to try to fully endure through this piece, I felt like I was the clown the whole time.

p.s. If this artist ever offers to make you a balloon dog, don’t trust him, he’s lying.