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First Person: Bruce Nauman – Days (London, UK)

Bruce Nauman’s latest exhibition ‘Days’ is a sound installation that comprises of fourteen flat panel speakers playing the sound of seven different voices reciting the days of the week in random order. The work reflects both the complexities and simplicities of the passing of everyday life.

Time and space is a key theme in the work. Depending on where you stand in the exhibition (and the entire gallery for that matter) changes your experience of it. In the main entrance hall and bookshop the performance can be heard, however what we hear in these locations is something completely different: a choir of noise that is created as a result of the mash-up of voices. This could be a reflection of Nauman’s desire to depict the chaotic experiences of every day life.

Once in the lower gallery, where the installation itself is situated, something different happens. Nauman has created a promenade for us to walk along. There are seven rows of speakers, one on either side as you make your way along. Standing between the two speakers it feels as though the voices are resighting the same days; however it is only on closer listening that we begin to understand that the same voice is speaking two different days at a time.

Wherever you stand within this main part of the exhibition you can hear the voices, it feels as though Nauman’s positioning of the speakers that makes audible more than one voice at a time means that we become participants free to operate our own journey around the installation and to create our own journey through the days of the week. It feels as though the exhibition is a reflection of life and the journey we make as we go along, although the exhibition is simplistic in nature.

‘Days’, reflects an ever-growing trend for artists to explore their work in relation to sound art and how this can manifest in their practices. Nauman’s exhibition forms part of a wider program of work and activities happening at the ICA this summer, with a number of talks and a further exhibition ‘sound works’ installed on the upper level of the gallery.

The ICA also has all of the soundworks displayed in the upper level exhibition available to listen to on their website, for free. This is a huge database of around a hundred artists including; Tim Skinner, Factory Floor, Michael Dean and Amy Granat. There is something to be said about the way in which the ICA has chosen to curate SoundWorks The same format is demonstrated in the exhibition as they are presented on an iPad where people may select which sound they would like and is then played out into the whole room. It is clear that there is an issue with the way that sound is displayed in galleries. Although sound has had an important part in the progression of contemporary art, with John Cage introducing ideas regarding chance for example however, there still seems to be some kind of neglect paid towards the field. Perhaps it is because the form (in a similar way to performance art) cannot actually be owned in the same way a painting or sculpture can. Meaning its place within the market is problematic to identify. However, I believe that it is this that makes the medium exciting territory to be working in as it allows arts the freedom available when operating outside the market.

It seems right that there is no begging and no end to the instillation, we have to enter and exit from the same point however. Other than this logistical constraint we are free to roam about as we please making our own journey through the days of the week. I don’t think it matters when you enter or what order you visit the speakers in, what is important is that you make your own choices and every persons experience will be different. To me the exhibition conceptually represents life and the route we take on it reflects our entry and exit on earth.



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My work explores the potentials of privately sited performance that takes places within the public sphere. I am interested in the use of site as a medium for creating work and the notion of creating work which is a result of an examination of urban 'texts'.

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