Sims Reed Rare Books×

Pulling Mouth

Nauman, Bruce

(Los Angeles). 1969
Original 16mm film for Bruce Nauman's 'Pulling Mouth'.

'Pulling Mouth' shows the slow motion distortions of Nauman's mouth using his fingers, to create gestures akin to those of children which aim to amuse, surprise or disturb. The focus on the mouth allows for the removal of Nauman's persona whilst placing emphasis on flesh as physical matter. Nauman had met the dancer and singer Meredith Monk in 1968, and it was her use of the body to make of art that encouraged his own exploration of its potential for manipulation into expressive forms.

'I had done some performance pieces - rigorous works dealing with standing, leaning, bending - and as they were performed, some of them seemed to carry a large emotional impact. I was very interested in that: if you perform a bunch of arbitrary operations, some people will make very strong connections with them, and others won't. That's really all the faces were about - just making a bunch of arbitrary faces.'

'Pulling Mouth', one of Nauman's 'Slo-Mo' series of films, was created in 1969 and is distributed by EAI (Electronic Arts Intermix) as a non-editioned work available in digital or DVD format. The present version, on 16mm film, presents several differences to the distributed version: the orientation is inverted, the film runs in reverse, the framing is different and the film is of a slightly different length; the '© Bruce Nauman, 1971' at the conclusion of the film is orientated correctly and suggests that the film is spooled correctly and that the variations are inherent. These differences are suggestive and provoke some interesting questions vis à vis authorial intention.

The printed label for the cover of the film canister bears the address of gallerist Ursula Wevers, who with her husband, the producer and cameraman Gerry Schum, initiated the Düsseldorf-based Fernsehgalerie (1968 - 1970) and Videogalerie Schum (1971 - 1973). These television and video project spaces were hugely significant in the art and media landscape of the 1960s and 1970s. Schum commissioned works specifically for television, managing to escape the conventional means by which the broader public could access art. Artists involved included John Baldessari, Joseph Beuys, Gilbert & George, Michael Heizer, Richard Serra and Mario Merz, among others. The high cost of production and equipment together with the dearth of private ownership of video equipment - again due largely to cost - and therefore the difficulty of any sales, meant that Schum was under tremendous financial pressure and he took his own life in 1973.

[Cordes, pg. 25].
Circular film canister. (184 x 184 mm). Nine minute 16mm film of Nauman's 'Pulling Mouth' on spool, outer section of film inscribed 'BRUCE NAUMAN: PULLING MOUTH 1969' in crayon. Loose in original aluminium film canister, white label with title and descriptive text to cover.