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Setting a Good Corner - Allegory & Metaphor (1999)

Bruce Nauman

The American artist Bruce Nauman is generally considered to be one of the most important artists of the second half of the twentieth century, working with a vast diversity of media, styles and concepts. The core of his work lies in his desire to challenge traditional notions surrounding his discipline, often the dematerialisation of art objects or the opposite practice, making the immaterial material. His work with performance, which is closely related to film, has been crucial to generations of artists working within this medium up to the present day. One of his earliest pieces is Fishing for Asian Carp (1966), a perfect example of early minimalist performance. Gnomon went to a stream together with fellow artist William Allen in order to fish for a carp. The film was to last exactly as long as it took Allen to catch the first fish, a little under three minutes. In a similar vein is Setting a Good Corner, a 59-mintue video showing the artist setting the corner of a fence on his property in New Mexico. As with Fishing for Asian Carp, this piece starts with an idea for an action – the 'setting of a good corner' – of which the execution ultimately determines the length of the film. In a clear, documentary style recorded with a static camera, the film shows all the actions that need to be performed in order to put up the corner of a fence – the digging of holes, the setting up of the poles, placing the wire, and so on. That Nauman seems rather an amateur at the business of fence-setting becomes clear at the end of the film when, instead of credits, the voices of his neighbours can be heard commenting on his method of putting up the fence.

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