• josutherstphotography

Sustainable Prospects – Considering Others – Bruce Nauman

Nauman’s work ‘Study for Holograms’ was inspired by Messerschmidt’s ‘Character Heads’.  Nauman manipulated his face to produce distorted, grotesque expressions. He exploited the rubbery nature of his facial muscles to do this.

The images all focus on the lower part of the face. The mouth is a particular focus. In much the same way as my ‘Only Human’ project, a key part of the work is the absence of the eyes.  In Nauman’s images, the absence of eyes reduces the images to studies of the flesh and the emotional connections the viewer normally makes with a portrait are missing.  The images are ambiguous and anonymous.

“The idea of making faces had to do with thinking about the body as something you can manipulate.”

– Nauman (Tate, 2017)

Figure 1: Bruce Nauman. a. 1970

Figure 2: Bruce Nauman. b. 1970

Figure 3: Bruce Nauman. c. 1970

Figure 4: Bruce Nauman. d. 1970

Figure 5: Bruce Nauman. e. 1970

The series of 5 images all feature images that have been close cropped.  Nauman used his own face for the images in which he used his fingers to pinch and pull his lips, pull and manipulate his cheeks and neck.

He chose to print the images as a black and fluorescent yellowy green.  This choice of printing and colours produces the holographic feel of the images. This is an interesting choice as it further distorts the images

The images make for uncomfortable viewing.  I feel like the images are mocking me. The anonymous faces appear to be pulling faces at me.  Their impersonal faces are absurd, yet fully understood.  I know what it feels like to pull faces like this. I know why I would pull these faces and this just serves to heighten my feeling of being mocked. Yet, I can’t help wondering how just one person has been able to produce such extremes with their face.

Nauman’s has removed his identity from these self-portraits and the extreme colouring of the images caused them to take on an alien-like appearance. My intention is to produce images that retain the identity of the model.  I plan to use self-portaits in the work and intend my work to have a humourous aspect to it, with images that will be self mocking and without the elements of narcissism that are common in many self-portraits. I am keen to discover how far I can push and distort my face, as well as how far I can convince my husband to distort his face.  I guess from previous work, his face will have more variations and levels of distortion than mine.


Tate. (2017). ‘d’, Bruce Nauman, 1970 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nauman-d-p77632 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].


Figure 1: Tate. (2017). ‘a’, Bruce Nauman, 1970 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nauman-a-p77629 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].

Figure 2: Tate. (2017). ‘b’, Bruce Nauman, 1970 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nauman-b-p77630 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].

Figure 3: Tate. (2017). ‘c’, Bruce Nauman, 1970 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nauman-c-p77631 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].

Figure 4: Tate. (2017). ‘d’, Bruce Nauman, 1970 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nauman-d-p77632 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].

Figure 5: Tate. (2017). ‘e’, Bruce Nauman, 1970 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/nauman-e-p77633 [Accessed 7 Sep. 2017].


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