Bruce Nauman’s Body Pressure is on long-term view at Dia:Beacon.  The piece, text on paper, sits in a stack on the basement floor.  Printed black-on-pink, the poster-sized pages are available for free: take one, please; the stack will be replenished.  Nauman’s art often focuses on the body.  Body Pressure is noteworthy in that it asks you, the viewer, to focus on your own body.

Recently, I picked up a copy of MIT Press’s Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words, which collects Nauman’s words from both writings and interviews.  What I’ve read of the latter is generally dry, to-the-point, though the occasional detail, often through its very prosaicness, stands out.  (Tony Oursler, for example, asks if Nauman watches television.  Among the response is the sentence, “I used to like to watch baseball, but we don’t have baseball anymore.”)  The writings, however, are often of the revelatory sort I was after.  Flayed Earth/Flayed Self (Skin/Sink), 1973, begins with hallucinatory intensity:

Peeling skin peeling earth – peeled earth

raw earth, peeled skin

The problem is to divide your

skin into six equal parts

lines starting at your feet and

ending at your head (five lines to makes six

equal surface areas) to twist and spiral

into the ground, your skin peeling off

stretching and expanding to cover the surface

of the earth indicated by the spiraling

waves generated by the spiraling twisting

screwing descent and investiture (investment

or investing) of the earth by your swelling body.

This intensity is maintained throughout.  In its entirety, Flayed Earth/Flayed Skin (Skin/Sink) is an installation, consisting of “a radiating spiral of masking tape affixed to the floor,” the book informs, as well as the text, which was both mounted on the wall and distributed as a brochure to visitors.  Other texts describe fantastical works which, being practically impossible, have never been realized.

It is through Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words that I learned that Body Pressure was first installed at Konrad Fischer Galerie in Dusseldorf.  In that version, unlike the one found at Dia:Beacon, German and English instructions alternated.  Here, in anticipation of Most Perfect World’s upcoming trip to Germany, I am reproducing the entirety of the original text, as it appears in Please Pay Attention Please.


Body Pressure

Presse soviel der vorderen Oberfläche deines Körpers

(Handflächen nach innen oder außen, rechte oder linke Wange)

so fest wie möglich gegen die Wand.

Press as much of the front surface of

your body (palms in or out, left or right cheek)

against the wall as possible.

Drücke sehr fest und konzentriere dich.

Press very hard and concentrate.

Bilde eine Vorstellung von dir selbst,

(nimm an du seist gerade vorwärts getreten)

wie du auf der anderen Seite der Wand sehr feste

gegen die Wand zurückdrückst.

Form an image of yourself (suppose you

had just stepped forward) on the

opposite side of the wall pressing

back against the wall very hard.

Presse sehr feste und konzentriere dich auf das

vorgestellte Bild, das sehr feste drückt.

Press very hard and concetrate on the

image pressing very hard.

Auf die Vorstellung des sehr festen Drückens

(the image of pressing very hard)

Drüke deine vordere Oberfläche und deine rückwärtige

Oberfläche gegeneinander und beginne die Dicke der Wand zu

ignorieren oder geistig auszulöschen. (Entferne die Wand).

Press your front surface and back surface

toward each other and begin to ignore or

block the thickness of the wall. (remove

the wall)

Bedenke, wie verschiedene Teile deines Körpers gegen

die Wand drücken; welche Teile sie berühren und

welche nicht.

Think how various parts of your body

press against the wall; which parts

touch and which do not.

Betrachte die Tiele deines Körpers, die gegen die

Wand drücken; drücke feste und fühle, wie sich die Vorderseite

und die Rückseite deines Körpers aneinanderpressen.

Consider the parts of your back which

press against the wall; press hard and

feel how the front and back of your

body press together.

Konzentriere dich auf die Spannung un den Muskeln,

den Schnerz, wo Knochen such treffen, die Verformung des

Fleisches, das unter Druck gerät; bedenke das Körperhaar,

die Transpiration, den Greuch (Duft).

Concentrate on tension in the muscles,

pain where bones meet, fleshy deformations

that occur under pressure; consider

body hair, perspiration, odors (smells).

Dies wird wohl eine sehr erotische Übung werden.

This may be become a very erotic exercise.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Architecture for Dogs / Canine Utopia | MedievalKarl

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