Clown Torture

Installation of four TV screens, one video projection of clown movies
© 2018 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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  • Installation of four TV screens, one video projection of clown movies

Date:

1987

Artist:

Bruce Nauman
American, born 1941

About this artwork

Bruce Nauman’s wildly influential, relentlessly imitated work explores the poetics of confusion, anxiety, boredom, entrapment, and failure. One of the artist’s most spectacular achievements to date, Clown Torture consists of two rectangular pedestals, each supporting two pairs of stacked color monitors; two large color-video projections on two facing walls; and sound from all six video displays. The monitors play four narrative sequences in perpetual loops, each chronicling an absurd misadventure of a clown (played to brilliant effect by the actor Walter Stevens). In “No, No, No, No (Walter),” the clown incessantly screams the word no while jumping, kicking, or lying down; in “Clown with Goldfish,” the clown struggles to balance a fish bowl on the ceiling with the handle of a broom; in “Clown with Water Bucket,” the clown repeatedly opens a door booby-trapped with a bucket of water that falls on his head; and finally, in “Pete and Repeat,” the clown succumbs to the terror of a seemingly inescapable nursery rhyme. The simultaneous presentation and the relentless repetition creates an almost painful sensory overload. With both clown and viewer locked in an endless loop of failure and degradation, the humor soon turns to horror.

Currently Off View

Contemporary Art

Artist

Bruce Nauman

Title

Clown Torture

Origin

United States

Date

1987

Medium

Four channel video with sound (two projections, four monitors)

Dimensions

Appro×imately one-hour loop

Credit Line

Watson F. Blair Prize, Wilson L. Mead, and Twentieth-Century Purchase funds; through prior gift of Joseph Winterbotham; gift of Lannan Foundation

Reference Number

1997.162

Copyright

© 2018 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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