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Bruce Nauman in "Identity"

Bruce Nauman transforms everyday activities, speech, and objects into works that are both familiar and alien. “I needed a different way to approach the idea of being an artist,” says Nauman. “I always thought that you can make something that appears to be functional, but when you try to and use it, you can’t figure out what its function might be. And that’s in the end what the function is, for you to figure out what to do with it.”

Filmed at Nauman’s ranch and studio outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, the segment features several of Nauman’s recent explorations into video, text, and self-portraiture—materials and themes the artist has engaged for over thirty years.

More information and credits


Created by: Susan Sollins & Susan Dowling. Executive Producer & Curator: Susan Sollins. Executive Producer: Susan Dowling. Series Producer: Eve-Laure Moros Ortega. Associate Producer: Migs Wright. Production Coordinator: Laura Recht. Researcher: Quinn Latimer & Wesley Miller. Director: Catherine Tatge. Editor: Donna Marino. Director of Photography: Bob Elfstrom, Mark Falstad, Tom Hurwitz, Terry Hopkins, & Ken Kobland. Assistant Camera: Doug Dunderdale & Steve Nealey. Sound: David Brownlow, Heidi Hesse, Mark Roy, Bill Wander, & Joe Yario. Gaffer/Grip: Lamar Bloodworth & Ned Hallick. Production Assistant: Steve Carrillo, Brian Hwang, Graham Gangi, Scott Stevens, Erick Michaud, Alexei Van Mourik, & Heather Murray. Animation Stand Photography: Marcos Levy & City Lights. Assistant Avid Editor: Matt Prinzig & Heather Burak. Assistant to the Director: Rachel Connolly.

Introductory Segment | Director & Writer: William Wegman. Producer: Andrea Beeman. Cast: Steve Martin, Jason Burch, Chip, Chundo. Director of Photography: Edgar Gil. Costumes: Pam Wegman. Editor: Steve Silkensen. Sound: Martin G. Cole, Marilys Ernst. On-Line Editor: Benton Bainbridge, DMZ. Post Mix: Danny Caccavo, Sync Sound.

Louise Bourgeois Segment | Producer/Editor: Marion Cajori. Associate Producer: Kipjaz Savoie. Director of Photography: Mead Hunt. Assistant Camera: Brian O’Caroll. Sound: Peter Miller. Production Assistant: Anya Popova.

Creative Consultant: Ed Sherin. Art Design and Direction: Open, New York. Animation, Visual Effects & Compositing: Spontaneous Combustion. On-Line Editor: Don Wyllie & Frame:Runner NYC. Composer: Peter Foley. Music Supervisor: John Yaffé. Sound Editing: Margaret Crimmins, Greg Smith, & Dog Bark Sound. Sound Mix: Tony Volante & Soundtrack, New York. Post-Production Supervisor: Michael Weingrad & Keir Randall.

Artworks courtesy of: Louise Bourgeois; Jerry Gorovoy; Maya Lin; Kerry James Marshall; © 2001 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy; Art Institute of Chicago; Art Kaleidoscope Foundation; Cheim & Read; Sarah Clark-Langager, Western Washington University; Donald Young Gallery; Gagosian Gallery; Jack Shainman Gallery; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art; Southern Poverty Law Center; Sperone Westwater Gallery; & Whitney Museum of American Art. Archival material courtesy of: Frey Foundation; Langston Hughes Library; Timothy Hursley; The Hull House; & Chicago Parks Department.

Special Thanks: Anne C. Baker; Alison Beall; Jamie Bennett; Joyce Bobolts; Brooklyn Museum; The Bruce Family; William Bush; City Lights; Susan Delson; Dennis Diamond; Dia Center for the Arts; David Ebner; Thomas G. Grace; Russell Hassell; Bruce Mac Corkindale; Cara Mertes; Margarita Moreno; Juliet Myers; Chris Pullman; Queens Museum; Tamberelli Video; University of Illinois, Chicago; Darin Webb; & Wendy Williams.

Interns: Maytal Ahrony, Joyce Alcantara, Christina Darcy, Leslie Fritz, Johanna Goldfeld, Susannah Gust, Sage Lehman, Kelly McCoy, Genevieve Mercatante, Jeff Seelbach, & Stacy Wu.

Public Relations: Kelly & Salerno Communications. Legal Counsel: Albert Gottesman.

Major underwriting for Season 1 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by Robert Lehman Foundation, PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, The Allen Foundation for the Arts, The Broad Art Foundation, The Jon and Mary Shirley Foundation, Bagley Wright Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and The Foundation-to-Life.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Bruce Nauman

Bruce Nauman has been recognized since the early 1970s as one of the most innovative and provocative of America’s contemporary artists. Nauman finds inspiration in the activities, speech, and materials of everyday life. Working in the diverse mediums of sculpture, video, film, printmaking, performance, and installation, Nauman concentrates less on the development of a characteristic style and more on the way in which a process or activity can transform or become a work of art. A survey of his diverse output demonstrates the alternately political, prosaic, spiritual, and crass methods by which Nauman examines life in all its gory details, mapping the human arc between life and death.

“I needed a different way to approach the idea of being an artist.”

Bruce Nauman

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In this interview, Bruce Nauman talks about how he came to use stairs as a recurring motif in his work.

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Bruce Nauman

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Bruce Nauman

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