Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens, an exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, represented the United States in the 53rd International Art Exhibition—La Biennale de Venezia and received the Venice Biennale’s top honor, the Golden Lion award for Best National Participation. Days and Giorni—Nauman’s new compelling sound installations recorded in two languages, English and Italian—have traveled from the Biennale to Philadelphia where they are presented in the main Museum building’s Gisela and Dennis Alter Gallery (176) and the Perelman Building’s Exhibition Gallery. In both Days and Giorni, the days of the week are recited in subtly varying combinations written by Nauman, read aloud by a range of individual participants and recorded as individual audio tracks. The voices differ in language—English in Days and Italian in Giorni—and also rhythm and progression. Whereas the voices that comprise Days were recorded and edited over a long period of time, Nauman recorded the participants that gave voices to Giorni during a single day in Venice where he worked with students and faculty of Università Iuav di Venezia (which also served as a venue for the multi-site Topological Gardens exhibition in addition to the U.S. Pavilion and the Exhibition Spaces at the Ca’Foscari University).
Bruce Nauman, Days, 2009, in the Dennis and Gisela Alter Gallery (176) in the Museum’s main building. Artwork © 2009 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
In the installation of these works, each individual’s voice plays through a pair of thin, square, off-white speakers that face one another, clipped to floor-to-ceiling metal cables. The community of voices emanating from these speakers—which are configured in two rows across a long exhibition space—may be experienced collectively or listened to in isolation, in what Calvin Tomkins described in the New Yorker as “discrete ribbons of sound” in which we hear the “human voice making unintentional music as it evokes the passage of time.” Mesmerizing and moving, the effect of Days and Giorni is also forceful and unrelenting. As Nauman both repeats and deftly rearranges the days of the week, he alters and undermines the very sequence that normally measures our lives in procession.
Bruce Nauman, Giorni, 2009, in the Exhibition Gallery at the Museum’s Perelman Building. Artwork © 2009 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
CuratorsCarlos Basualdo • The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art
Erica F. Battle • Project Curatorial Assistant, Modern and Contemporary Art
LocationGallery 176, Main Building
Exhibition Gallery, first floor, Perelman Building