Nauman's eerily intuitive way of creating sophisticated, intellectually angular art out of simple gestures-a 10-minute film called "Bouncing Two Balls between the Floor and Ceiling with Changing Rhythms," for example, in which the artist does just that-builds fascination out of repetition's blandness. This set of collected writings is essential for anyone wishing to explore the ideas behind Nauman's practices, even if it duplicates much of the recent Art + Performance volume (Johns Hopkins, 2003) on Nauman and is nearly twice as expensive. Of the group of 19 artist's writings in this book, nine do not appear in the earlier volume on Nauman; one of these, a cheeky comment on "earth art," was intended to be skywritten and is a single line: "Leave the Land Alone."
Nauman is mild and reticent as an interviewee, but nine of the 14 interviews here are exclusive to this book, and one-the extensive 1980 interview by Michele de Angelus-has never before appeared in complete form. The long introduction by Kraynak (Andy Warhol: Unique Prints from the Estate of Rupert Jasen Smith) is more satisfactory in its marshaling of basic semantic theory to explain Nauman's relationship to words, and his words' relationships to their contexts, but it lacks the cathartic insights one might expect in such a tight focus on his language. It also avoids the issue of Nauman's relation to other conceptual artists who use words extensively: she opts for Bakhtin and Benveniste, for example, over Ruscha or Holzer. Nauman courts extreme, even clinical, thinking, if only as a way to achieve practical and reliable experiences in art, as when Nauman comments on his use of puns: "I think humor is used a lot of the time to keep people from getting too close. Humor side-steps and shifts the meaning." So do these pieces, but that may be the point.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Art historian Kraynak has performed a great service in compiling all of the major interviews of the artist..."
-- Prudence Peiffer, Library Journal
"This collection offers inquiring minds access to the artist's process."
-- THE Magazine - Best Books of 2003
"...(Nauman) remains an enigma - which is exactly why a collection of writings and especially interviews is so valuable."
-- Nick Stillman, The Brooklyn Rail