Ristabilire l’ordine animale: riti e confini da Bruce Nauman a Matthew Barney

Luca Bochicchio

This paper focuses on the presence of animals in two major works by Bruce Nauman and Matthew Barney – respectively Hanging Carousel (George Skins a Fox), 1988, and Redoubt, 2019 – which were presented in two different shows, held in New York City and New Haven, in the turn of 2018-2019. The closeness of such two exhibitions encouraged a comparison between the way, the process, and the cultural-aesthetic reasons driving Nauman and Barney to involve precise animals in their works. Animals chosen and used by the artists are actually wild predators, typical of the American West, namely coyotes and wolves. In both the works, their presence appears mediated by screens, devices, or simulacra, while their bodies undergo acts of sacrifice. Indeed, they are predators and hunters in their realm made of prairie and forests, but the outcome of their encounter with the human-hunter is a death sentence, a violent death, which artworks are the narrative and symbolic frame of. Using a double method of research, based on Art History and Visual Studies, the author analyzes and compares Nauman and Barney’s works through specific literature, exhibition catalogues, artists’ interviews, and catalogues raisonnés. The aim of the survey is to contextualize the predator’s presence in Hanging Carousel and Redoubt, within the biographies of their authors, considering their relationship with social and natural environment, as well as American politics, identities, and tradition. On the other hand, this paper wants to investigate how all those real elements found in the Classic and American mythology the symbolic grammar to build and shape works which combine sculpture, dance, performance, and video in two choral visual complexes.