Pinchneck, 1968

Bruce Nauman, born in Fort Wayne (Indiana) in 1941, is one of the most important and innovatory figures of contemporary art. The variety of supports he uses, from video to hologram or neon, reflect the range of subjects of his production, in which he investigates both the nature of the creative process and the nature of the human condition. For Nauman the process of artistic creation is as important as the art in itself. “What does an artist do when he’s alone in his studio? My conclusion was that [if] I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art. At this point art became more of an activity and less of a product.”

Like many artists of his generation, Nauman rejects the traditional idea of the work of art and its conception as an independent art object, and advocates a kind created from real experience, the experience of his own body.

For Nauman sculpture is the cornerstone of his work, which is why he draws inspiration from the participation or performance by the spectator which is inherent to any sculptural work. He understands video as an extension of his sculpture, and in the late sixties he began a series of works in which he performed different activities in front of a fixed camera.

Another of Nauman's artistic interests is expressing the passage of time, its functioning and continuity. That was why he discarded sculpture as a support at that time and began to use film and video as new media for his ideas, especially video, which enables him to present a narrative with no beginning and no end and to capture the strange continuum of his own life. But he understands the camera as a tool for documenting and capturing a temporary activity and making it real, true.

In Nauman's work we can find an infinite number of influences, especially from contemporary artists, but also from other disciplines such as literature, music, dance or the cinema. His work can be set simultaneously in different artistic currents: Conceptual Art and Body Art for the use and manipulation of his own body as a process of artistic creation, and Video Art. Moreover, his work has been influenced by the Dada tradition, and its leading figure Marcel Duchamp; Jasper Johns, with whose work he holds a permanent dialogue; Andy Warhol as an experimental film-maker and his characteristic anti-narrative structure; Wittgenstein's philosophical investigations; Gestalt theories about knowledge of one's own body and the probing of human behaviour; Samuel Beckett and the obsessive characters of his stories. Other influences are people from the world of music and dance such as the choreographers Merce Cunningham or Meredith Monk, from whose theories he took the simple, repetitive movements, or the musicians Steve Reich, La Monte Young and Karlheinz Stockhausen, who studied the relations between repetition, intensity and boredom, and from whom he took the idea of the continuous 'link' which he would export to his videos.

Pinchneck, 1968

In several of his films, Nauman handles and plays with his own flesh. In this case he pinches the skin of his neck, his cheeks and his mouth.

Related to one another, these are a series of infrared photographs taken by Jack Fulton which Nauman posed for, making strange distortions with his lips and cheeks.

Technical details

Original title:
Registration number:
Nauman, Bruce
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Audiovisual recording
16 mm film trasnferred to video, color, silent, 1 min 54 s
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© Bruce Nauman, VEGAP, Barcelona
It has accessibility resources:

The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

For more information on the work or the artist, please consult MACBA's Library. To request a loan of the work, please write to colleccio [at] macba.cat.

If you need a high resolution image of the work, you must submit an image loan request.