Tyler Green
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Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Nauman’s ‘Days’ critiques torture so effectively that…

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Earlier this year the Philadelphia Museum of Art presented a beautiful, eerie, challenging installation of Bruce Nauman’s Days. (As you may recall, the PMA first presented the work in the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and brought part of that show to Philly.)

In March, I wrote about how psychologically intense Days is, how it continues Nauman’s 30-year exploration of torture and that it seems to be substantially about America’s torture of detainees during the Bush administration.

A key element of Nauman’s piece is its soundtrack, a use of sound that I argued was about techniques used at American detention centers such as Guantanamo Bay. Last week the Philadelphia Museum of Art told me that the audio of Days was so intense that it had to shorten its usual guard rotations.

The work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, where it is now on view.

Related: Nauman’s Double Steel Cage Piece, Nauman begins to explore torture, Nauman’s hanging chairs.

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  1. leelee says:

    Torture is the stark art subject of Bruce Nauman’s Days. Torture has always been paramount to military intelligence since the first days man came out of the boggy bronze age and Remus and Romulus of Rome were suckled by the she wolf. In the name of gods, goddesses and religions bodies have been impaled, stretched and lit afire. This is not your typical inspired graphics . Bones have been broken, skin has been flayed, guts have been drawn and quartered, sight and tongues gouged with a smoking iron. There have been beheadings, brandings, scalping and pain in every shade of blood red. Puncture this fragile shell and exsanguination drains the human body. We contain 89 cents worth of minerals, 55 to 78% water and absolutely priceless to our loved ones. It’s sad that so much effort goes into torture; this hasn’t stopped since the Spanish Inquisition, updated to drug cartels and global international terrorism. Most amazing of all, Stockholm Syndrome causes the tortured mind of the vanquished to sometimes gain an empathy for the conqueror. This is evident in battered wives, child abuse and war POW’s. Art and the human mind merge for a troubling look at man’s inhumanity to man in Days.

  2. dmcdo says:

    The same thing happened at MOCA in LA with the guards who were watching the Clown Torture piece during his retrospective there about 10 years ago.

  3. Catherine Arias says:

    Artists who wish to engage audiences in thoughtful critique by employing grating noises, yelling, or other disturbing sounds in their work seem not to think about museum security officers, who must stand — even in short rotations — in spaces with these sounds without the luxury of being able to leave the gallery when they choose. I have worked with security attendants to facilitate their understanding of artists’ intentions and the art historical and cultural contexts of such works, but the bottom line is that standing in those galleries makes doing their jobs very difficult.

  4. Judging by the photograph, an interesting space! I would love to be there and listen to the audio as well.

  5. […] on duty at this show.” As Tyler Green has noted, this is not the first time that a work of art has required museum guards to utilize protective measures. 2. “The Responsive Eye” was organized by curator William C. Seitz, who was the first […]

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