caption (above): © João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva
© Hiroshi Sugimoto, Self-portrait, 2003
“I wish to suggest that we are like philosopher-artists installed in these works, engaged in inscribing and contemplating the line between the real and representation, the trait, which continually both “draws a boundary and with draws from it.” To be this blind man means, for Derrida, to see with one’s hands, and indeed when one interacts with these installations one finds oneself touching – walls, elevator doors, a door jamb or stair railing – whatever is near to hand that will steady one’s balance. The blind man of necessity must also rely on memory, both the memory of objects and spaces (the configuration of the room, one’s location relative to furniture) and, more important, the memory of sight itself. Deceived by shadows, blinded by sunlight, we are like Plato’s cave dwellers, for, like them, the viewer of contemporary art “suffers from sight.” Accustomed to a world of simulation, a world where image is reality, we are full time skeptics for whom light and darkness, truth and falsehood, reality and representation hold equal dangers. We are left to draw blindly, again and again, the line between them.
Not quite performance and not quite sculpture, Nauman’s corridor pieces provoke a series of questions: What is the role of the, for lack of a better word, “viewer’s” body and the effect of the constraints placed on that body? What is the place of vision in works in which there is nothing in particular to see (the blank walls), or in which seeing is frustrated (the image of the back of one’s head), or in which one is blinded (the bright lights) ? And what is the function of representation in works in which nothing much seems to be represented? While it seems clear that Nauman’s works are performative?they involve a setting, an actor, a simple narrative arc, a temporal framework, and what Joseph Roach has called sur rogation (the viewer stands in for the artist)?they also resist the category of performance.2^ They are, at the same time, involved with seemingly more conventional artistic concerns such as vision (we are forced to contemplate our own seeing), subject-object relations (the corridor is both sculpture and stage), and representation (the viewer represents the artist). Performance and sculpture, the real and representation, vision and blindness? the corridor is an apt figure through which to contemplate the passage between conceptual categories. It functions both as a long line (Derrida’s trait) that divides, and as a liminal space that connects?here and there, now and then.”
excerpt of Blink: The Viewer as Blind Man in Installation Art, by Jane Blocker, in Art Journal, Vol. 66, No. 4, 2007