Good Boy, Bad Boy

Bruce Nauman


Installation, 01:00:00, 00:52:00.
Materials: dvd, digital betacam, 2 monitors, 2 players

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp.

As a pioneer of the classical American video art, Bruce Nauman starts from an idea of art as an activity with a message that directly addresses the viewer. The communication he wants to conduct goes beyond mere dialogue; it is a treacherous call to take part in a train of thought, whereby the spectator becomes inconspicuously involved, and thereby part of the work. The visual language is so compact and direct that it becomes a mirror of one's own soul. In 1985, this results in the video Good Boy, Bad Boy, played by two actors who mutually recite the same (scholastic) conjugation of ‘to have’, supplemented with existential concepts that, depending on the intonation of the actors, acquire a communicative, pleading or commanding tone. Because of the different speaking rates of the actors, the texts shift into an endless stream of words that becomes a compelling mantra, simultaneously enchanting and intimidating. ‘I have to ... you have to ..., we have to ...’ The schematic rhythm evokes associations with teaching and education, but also with brainwashing and indoctrination. In the exhibition Luc Tuymans places the directness of Good Boy Bad Boy diagonally against Tobias Rehberger’s shadow play. The curator deliberately chooses this early work by Nauman because it clearly shows the extent to which the American saw the possibilities of video art before others even became aware of it. The video lasts barely a minute and repeats itself continuously. It is a compressed, iconic work from the collection of the M HKA, that imposes its presence in the space in an almost brutal manner.

Text: Hans Willemse
Translations: Michael Meert

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