His Raw Materials - Tate Turbine Hall Filled With Nauman's Voices

By Helen Barrett | 11 October 2004
Shows a photograph of Bruce Nauman standing and leaning against a black wall at the top of a flight of stairs in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. A sign next to him reads The Unilever Series: Bruce Nauman.

Bruce Nauman in the Turbine Hall, Tate Modern. © Manuel Vason 2004.

Helen Barrett joined the press pack for a sneak preview of Bruce Nauman's attempt to fill the massive Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, on until March 28, 2005.

The latest installation in the Unilever Series for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, ‘Raw Materials’ by American artist Bruce Nauman opens to the public on October 12.

Nauman, 62, has created an extraordinary soundscape using 22 recordings of the human voice to fill the vast space.

Visitors walk the length of the Turbine Hall through unseen bands of spoken text. Wave after wave of different voices, sometimes urgent, sometimes meditative, merge to create an overall ambient sound.

High above the ground level aural collage, suspended speakers release an overarching drone entitled ‘MMMM’, performed by Nauman to disorientating effect.

Shows a photograph of people walking through the vast Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

The massive Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, London. © Tate Photography.

"You don’t have to stop and listen to the whole thing if you don’t want to," said Nauman, "but you can make a rhythmic connection as you meander."

Standing from the bridge across the hall, it sounds as if an unseen riot has broken out on the South Bank.

Disembodied voices shout at visitors. From the endless and desperate ‘Thank You, Thank You.’ near the entrance ramp, through tones of hysteria, anger, pleading, singing and whispering.

An exhausted voice implores us, or perhaps himself, to ‘work! work!’ whilst above the bridge an irate and urgent ‘think! think!’ shrieks at us as we exit to the galleries and beyond onto the street.

"When a word is repeated, it becomes abstract, starts to unravel and sound absurd" explained curator Emma Dexter. "It’s this combination of meaninglessness and profundity that speaks to visitors in different ways. Every visitor’s response is going to be unique."

Shows a photograph of artist Bruce Nauman standing and leaning against a backdrop that is glowing yellow as if lit from behind.

Nauman is recognised as an innovator in the field of multi-media art. © Manuel Vason 2004.

Nauman added, "When you leave, you will pay attention to the sound of the world around you and gain a heightened sense of yourself".

Bruce Nauman was one of the first artists to explore a full range of media, materials and ways of working in the 1960s, moving between photography, text, video and performance. He describes the effect of his work as "like getting hit on the back of the neck".

‘Raw Materials’ is the fifth commission in the highly successful Unilever series for the Turbine Hall. It follows 2003’s ‘Weather Project’ installation by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, which attracted 2.2 million visitors.

Speaking today, Unilever chairman Gavin Neath confirmed that Unilever have renewed their sponsorship of the series for the next three years. "We are in this for the long term," he said.

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