Description: Eating Buggers (Version II)
blue, white and yellow neon on white metal box
24 1/8 x 36 x 9 1/4 in. (61.3 x 91.4 x 23.5cm.)
Executed in 1985, this work is unique
Artist or Maker: Bruce Nauman (b. 1941)
Exhibited: New York, Leo Castelli, Bruce Nauman, October-November 1985.
Literature: N. Benezra, K. Halbreich, P. Schimmel and R. Storr (eds.), Bruce Nauman Exhibition Catalogue and Catalogue raisonné, Minneapolis 1994, no. 335 (illustrated, p. 294).
Provenance: Leo Castelli, New York.
John Lawrence, New York.
Hirschl and Adler Modern, New York.
Anthony d'Offay, London.
Aquired from the above by the previous owner.
Notes: THE PROPERTY OF A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTOR
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Picking their noses and then feeding their findings to each other, the two figures in Eating Buggers (Version II) illustrate many of Nauman's concerns about human communication and interaction. There is an ambiguity in the relationship, which hovers between trust and torment. Is the feeding of 'boogers' or bogeys a strange act of intimacy, or one of cruelty? Eating Buggers (Version II) implies that human relationships necessarily comprise some combination of the two. The inferred childishness of the subject of nose-picking introduces an extra dimension of pettiness to these relations.
That the content of Eating Buggers (Version II) has a childish dimension should be no surprise, considering its original inspiration Nauman's daughter Zoe's ability to stick her tongue in her nose. The motif in this neon work from 1985 had been developed from sketches of that act that Nauman had drawn earlier in the year. At the same time, the phonetic and semantic shift that has taken place in the title, whose pun transforms 'boogers' to 'buggers', hints at a deeply adult level of interpretation, and of course of relationship between the neon heads.
In this mirage-like instability in the title and the many possible permutations of its meanings, Nauman reveals the pitfalls of even the artist's own communications with his viewer. This factor is accentuated by the flashing neon medium of Eating Buggers (Version II), usually associated with the supposedly unambiguous direct messages of signage and advertising. With the tensions between trust and torture, between adult and childish content and between straight-talking messages and crossed wires, Nauman's Eating Buggers (Version II) is an impressively concise distillation of the myriad issues that make personal relationships and human communication a constant minefield.
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