Inside Installations: Mapping the Studio II
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Re-cycling in the art of Bruce Nauman

Recordings from the past 30 or 40 years make up the sound collage used in Raw Materials Photograph: Tate Photography

- Recordings from the past 30 or 40 years make up the sound collage used in Raw Materials Photograph: Tate Photography

The re-using of previous artworks is an important feature of Bruce Nauman’s work. While most artists re-cycle ideas and themes in their work, Nauman often re-uses the actual physical material of previous artworks. In his sound installation, Raw Materials, 2004, for the Unilever commission in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall, Nauman used existing sound recordings he'd made:

‘…instead of inventing new  sounds, I wanted to use spoken text I had recorded over the past thirty or forty years and make a kind of collage…using these otherwise finished texts as raw material for a whole other idea. What I'm doing is saying: “Okay forget what the original intention was, just use this stuff as sound that is available and arrange it in a way that makes another kind of sense.”’

- Bruce Nauman, in conversation with Robert Storr, Tate Etc.. Autumn 2004

In Mapping the Studio, recycling is a starting point for the work, as well as a recurring theme throughout the development of the piece.

Before deciding to film his studio, Nauman describes, in an interview with Michael Auping¹, how he had been considering how to best make use of the remnants of other projects and unfinished works and notes lying around his studio. Inspired by a piece created by the artist Daniel Spoerri for a book (An Anecdotal Photography of Chance, 1966) in which Spoerri recorded everything left on a table after a meal, Nauman felt it would be similarly interesting to map the ‘leftovers’ of his studio. These ‘leftovers’ become the landscape that the mice explore in their nightly forages into the artist’s space.  As well as re-using the debris in the studio for the piece, Nauman also re-cycles an earlier work for the title of the installation.

The subtitle of the work: ‘Fat Chance John Cage’ not only appropriately refers to the open-ended character of Mapping the Studio (the experimental musician John Cage is known for his compositions of what he called ‘chance music’), but also refers to an earlier Nauman work. Invited by gallerist Anthony d’Offay to contribute to an exhibition of John Cage scores, Nauman sent d’Offay a telegram with the words ‘FAT CHANCE JOHN CAGE’, as his contribution to the exhibition.

The recycling theme also occurs in relation to Nauman’s re-use of the footage for the Mapping the Studio related works. Mapping the Studio I, Mapping the Studio II and the all action edit all make use of the studio footage. In Office Edit – a related installation which uses only one projection, we see Nauman re-using the colour shift and image manipulation he had developed for Mapping the Studio II. (You can read more about these works in Other Versions of Mapping the Studio)

¹Bruce Nauman Interview, 2001 as quoted in Please Pay Attention Please:Bruce Nauman’s Words Ed. Janet Kraynak