‘You Just Have to Make Something’: Watch Bruce Nauman Explain How Going Into the Studio Every Day Fuels His Creativity

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Bruce Nauman: Teachers & Artists." © Art21, Inc. 2013.

Sometimes art is born out of inspiration, and sometimes out of necessity. For the American conceptual artist Bruce Nauman, any random piece of detritus or household object can become the source of creativity. In an exclusive interview filmed back in 2000, as part of Art21’s Extended Play series, Nauman is seen puttering around his studio, generating ideas from the cast-off remains of forms made from taxidermy and urethane foam.

You’re just going to go and do something every day,” Nauman says of his commitment to being in the studio, regardless of what projects he has in the works. “So you just do whatever’s at hand, and you don’t even worry about whether it’s going to be interesting or not interesting to anybody else, or even yourself—you just have to make something.”

Even now, more than 20 years after that interview, Nauman is experimenting with new materials to keep his creativity flowing. New York gallery Sperone Westwater is currently showing a new, six-channel video installation by the artist titled His Mark (2021). The projection shows Nauman’s hands and fingers tracing the shape of an “X” on a table.

The artist got the idea for the work from a textbook given to him by his grandson Milo, which contained a treaty signed between the Canadian Government and the Native American chief of the Blackfoot Band in the 19th century. On the document, the chief signed his name with only an X, which Nauman used as the basis of his performative piece.

“So I’ve been making all these videotapes of my fingers and hands signing Xs,” Nauman said in a press release, “I owe it all to my grandson.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s Extended Play series, below. “Bruce Nauman: His Mark” is on view at Sperone Westwater in New York through March 12, 2022.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.


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