Daniel Birnbaum in Artforum, discussing “Beckett/Nauman,” a Spring 2000 exhibition at the Kunsthalle Wien
The organizers of “Beckett/Nauman,” Kunsthalle Wien curator Christine Hoffmann and art historian Michael Glasmeier, aren’t really out to prove anything, but their juxtaposition of works by the two artists provides ample ground for comparison and analysis of thematic affinities. This is not a major Nauman show in the ordinary sense, even if a number of important pieces–A Cast of the Space under My Chair, 1965-68, lots of videos, and two “corridors,” one shown for the very first time–are effectively installed. It’s not a major Beckett show either, for there’s no such thing. This is something else entirely: a gray inventory of impossible connections or an archive of discontinuities. It’s a genealogical space rather than a show. Full of detailed information–manuscripts, drawings, notebooks, and sketches–the exhibition piqued curiosity and made the viewer attentive. I liked it a lot.
Emphasis added on the part I liked a lot. But wait, there’s more…
Birnbaum makes the argument that Beckett and Nauman aren’t actually intergenerational inspirational source/recipient, but contemporaries. Did you know Beckett adapted a play for the BBC in 1977, and produced several teleplays and what must be considered video art pieces for TV as late as the Eighties? Here’s a clip of Quad I & II, a wordless experiment in rhythm and rulemaking created for the German broadcaster Süddeutscher Rundfunk. Come to think of it, yeah. When was Mummenschantz again? Oh, wait, I thought I was totally kidding.
Film, meanwhile was Beckett’s first and only film screenplay. 40 pages, comprising notes and diagrams around a “fairly baffling when not downright inscrutable six-page outline,” Becket wrote it in 1963 and shot it in New York in 1964. Film dealt with E and O [for Eye and Object, apparently] and “the question of ‘perceivedness,’ the angle of immunity, and the essential principle that esse est percipi: to be is to be perceived.” For 20 wordless minutes, a camera follows an aged Buster Keaton as he tries to avoid being seen.
Is Film online? Of course it is, thanks to UbuWeb. [There’s also a clip on YouTube.] Ubu also has director Alan Schneider’s account of making the film, where I got the quotes in the previous paragraph.
[thanks reference library]