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Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts

MoMA PS1

Through February 25 2019

"I talk, you listen." Bruce Nauman

 

"Sculpture is the art of intelligence." Pablo Picasso

 

"No sense makes sense." Charles Manson

 

Dear Dusty. Sorry for the delay. I got your letter and the m/s last Tuesday. My landlord Lana -- you met her once, I think --  found me this morning passed out in the hallway, hungover. It's ok. She's seen me worse off. With young girls, or 1 time naked after mistakenly picking up a cupcake I swear to god looked like Hedy Lamarr with an afro. She turned out not to be so nice when I couldn't pay her. One time these 2 German girls came from Hamburg to visit me. I tried to fuck both of them, finally settled on the older one 19 while the other one went to the Brehmer & Cross to wait. I gave her a real pounding, 1 or 2 inches at a time at first, I kept punching at the tunnel, good hard strokes. "Oh god Frank! It's so BIG Frank! HOLY SHIT IT’S PURPLE, FRANK!" she went on and on. Maybe it was all the beer, but I gave her 3 or 4 good long strokes then gave up and ate her out. The girls stayed 4 days and nights until I got bored and then it was 4 or 5 cans of beer and a couple little cans of vodka mix with rum because we were out of vodka just to get them out.

I am going to go by the post office to mail you the new poems, but I want to stop off at the Black Sparrow. There is a new bartender there called Bruce [First Hologram Series: Making Faces B, 1968] who used to work days but now he just does nights. He says the tips are better at night and he is trying to save up money so he can move out full time to work on a dude ranch. [Setting a Good Corner (Allegory and Metaphor), 1999] Kid is ok. He is a composer. He doesn't know shit about Mahler, but he brought in a tape recorder that he had a tape on of a symphony he composed. Modern shit, but the title of it was DEAD DAD so who the fuck am I to say. It wasn't half bad.

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That screenplay shit I told you about was just some "artist" wanting to do a student film. I told him to fuck off because a) he didn't seem to have any money, b) he wants to do Boners when I had specifically told him it had to be one of the longer shorts from Mother's Pussy and c) I think he just wants to fuck me.

You know that feeling you get when you feel like you've forgotten something like your room key or that something is missing like your soul? Bruce understands that. That is something. Most artists never understand that. The absent, the void, the feeling of nonexistence. Bruce gives form to these things. [Seven Wax Templates of the Left Half of My Body Spread over 12 Feet, 1967] Things that are seen, holes the size of a body part, the space under a chair, a beautiful woman vanishing around a corner. In the nocturnal life of the studio, the empty bathtub where you were 2 minutes before. He grapples with the anxiety of the psychological world. Like Victor Hugo wrote on emptiness and inhabiting. Ouasimodo's cathedral was "egg, nest, house, country and universe …one might almost say that he had espoused its form the way a snail does the form of its shell. It was his home, his hole, his envelope. He adhered to it like a turtle to its carapace. This rugged cathedral was his armor." There was a big shoot-out last night outside the Sparrow. A real Punch and Judy show. [Crime and Punishment (Punch and Judy), 1985] I didn't actually see it. I heard some shots and figured it was some SLA shit or Manson, or the IRA. Bruce didn't want to go out. He said, “It will be on tv in 10 minutes anyway." Bruce likes his violence second hand I guess. It's the city does this. Turns real people into animals. [Leaping Foxes, 2018] Concrete walls. Endless streets. All the protest signs in Zapruder Park. Fuck You. NO. Get out of my head. All you need is love. [Human Nature/Life Death/Knows Doesn’t Know, 1983] I had left the racetrack a loser, after the 9th, so clearly my luck wouldn't be improved walking into a riot. Bruce is right. It will all be on tv in 10 minutes.

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Tried to look for some symphony music on the radio and passed by the news. It didn't mention the shootings today. I guess it's not a real story unless somebody dies. There are always so many angles on these things, whoever knows what the truth is. Bruce says, "the real artist reveals mystical truths" or some shit. Poetry. Well, I think maybe the tv brought it into the streets. Maybe it's an overdose of Marx. Sometimes I wonder what Hem would have done, then I laugh because we know what Hem would have done. Ha Ha. Oh, lovely Mahler.

I am lucky to have you as a friend. I am sending you some new poems. I will have the new novel Blowjobs soon. January if I don't get murdered, for better or for worse. We must first look for centers of simplicity in our lives, in our many rooms. [Double Steel Cage Piece, 1974] Bruce said the other night "we are just in different rooms at different times, with different people." He knows death and waste and glory and some of the rent paid and courage. And moving toward the sun. He said: "frustration is something that gets you into the studio and gets you to work through it. It's not evident in anything that is finished. Knowing when it’s enough and you can leave it alone." I hope I remember these things. The cat with a bird in its mouth, the rifle sticking out of the window, the screaming clowns, the rats at night scurryingly oblivious. Walking into the water and becoming one with the sea.

Mr. Rubenstein is a painter and smart culture aficionado, he is the author of The Black Album: Writings in Art and Culture. Order it now at Amazon.
 

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