“I [am] using my body as a piece of material and manipulating it. I think of it as going into the studio and being involved in some activity. Sometimes it works out that the activity involves making something, and sometimes the activity itself is the piece.”–Bruce Nauman
Emerging out of the Minimalist tradition in the mid-1960s, Nauman rejected its highly controlled and theorized aesthetics and engaged in art rooted in discovery. His introverted curiosity embodied a unique style of questioning. In a series of experiments, he performed various mundane and repetitive acts, such as walking around the perimeter of a square, throwing balls, applying makeup, and playing the violin.
Using his body as the medium and tool for these works, he emphasized the process of work or the presence of the body in the object. In one of his first “exercises” in his studio, Failing to Levitate in the Studio (1966), Nauman concentrates on levitating in space–if not actually defying gravity, at least maintaining a level posture while balancing himself between two chairs. In 1968, he produced the original First Hologram Series: Making Faces (a-k), 11 transmission holograms visible in three dimensions. In the screenprint studies, Nauman molds his face into a variety of exaggerated expressions, becoming not only the maker of art but its product.