Inside Installations: Mapping the Studio II
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Mapping the Studio II with flip, flop & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) 2001
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Mapping the studio II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) 2001

MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) 2001 is a video installation screened as seven large-scale projections on the gallery walls. The original material was shot by Nauman in his studio at night, over a period of several weeks in 2000 using the night vision mode of his digital video camera.

Bruce Nauman MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage), 2001

Bruce Nauman MAPPING THE STUDIO II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage), 2001 © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2005 Photo: Tate Photography

The footage includes shots of remnants of past works, works in progress, and work materials - in fact whatever happened to be lying around the artist’s studio. The stillness of the studio at night is interrupted at irregular intervals by mice, insects and Nauman’s cat, as well as with background sounds of trains, horses, coyotes, wind and rain.

 

- Jessica Morgan talking about what the piece looks like

Read transcript

The installation at Tate Modern is displayed in a space that approximates the dimensions of Nauman’s studio. The viewer is surrounded by seven images, each 5.0 metres wide and 2.81 metres high. As the viewer watches, the colours of each projection change gradually through the colour spectrum within a 28-minute period. In addition, every 15 minutes the image is flipped left-to-right or right-to-left or flopped upside down; sometimes there is a flip/flop that turns the image both sideways and upside down. One cycle of the installation lasts 5 hours and 45 minutes.

Page from Notebook 1 (left); Logbook file (right)

Page from Notebook 1 (left); Logbook file (right)

Nauman recorded the contents of the video footage in two notebooks. After every night of filming he watched the footage and carefully logged the contents of the tape. Each of the seven locations has its own pages, with a description of events listed next to the specific frame, such as ‘dog bark 0:19:49:00’ or ‘mouse in at 0:41:43:28’. Also included are comments relating to the weather and background sounds which may be heard. These handwritten notes, jotted down in simple spiral bound stenographers’ books, became the guide for the final edit of the video. They were also used as the basis for the Logbooks for MAPPING THE STUDIO, which list the action in a similar manner. The logbooks take the form of Microsoft Word files stored on a CD, which can be printed out and displayed alongside the installation.

‘Sometimes there are only two or three events an hour, sometimes there are flurries of activity where there’s a mouse in and out of the picture every minute for half an hour. I’ve got a logbook with all this stuff.’

- Bruce Nauman, interview with Joan Simon, Please Pay Attention Please: Bruce Nauman’s Words, Janet Kraynak (ed.), The MIT Press / Cambridge, MA / London, England, 2003, p. 384-395.

Still from Michael Short interview ‘If people haven’t experienced the piece they don’t know there’s sound.’

- Michael Short, in interview, June 2005

On first impression, the audio element of MAPPING THE STUDIO II with flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage) 2001, may not seem to be significant, however it is an essential part of the identity of the work. Michael Short, who has worked with Nauman on the installation of this work, has said that the audio creates an important sense of time passing.

The microphone on the camera used to make the work had an automatic gain control to boost low signals; this picks up sounds that may not usually be heard by the human ear – or ambient background sounds that we would not normally be aware of. The dominant sound is the hum of the air conditioning units in Nauman’s studio, but other incidental noises such as when the moths fly close to the microphone and the artist’s cat, can also be heard; as can noise from outside the studio - a coyote in the distance, a train and a thunder storm.

The sound is specific to each video and when played together in the installation it represents a composite of the sound recorded in the seven locations at different times. When these ambient sounds from seven different recordings are heard all at the same time, it ‘generates a certain signature of sound’ which does not overpower the general stillness of the video but, as Michael Short has noted,  has in fact the same ambient level as the images. 

The effect of the large images and the sound levels is to create an emotionally charged immersive space - what Janet Kraynak has called   ‘mediated spaces in which the viewer is made to perform a range of sensory tasks: moving, viewing, listening and so on. In so doing, processes of perception – visual, physiological, physical – are heightened, and the distinction between seeing with the eyes and experiencing with the body is collapsed’.