Bruce Nauman

Good Boy Bad Boy


Werk - Good Boy Bad Boy
Artist / Artist group
Bruce Nauman
Good Boy Bad Boy
Edition / Serial number
Copy Number
video, installation, Video installation
Material / Technique
two-channel video, two-channel audio installation ; 2 monitors, 2 laserdiscs, 2 laserdisc players
Dimensions / Duration
ca. 140 x 160 x 60 cm, installation dimensions variable
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

Two monitors stand on pedestals at eye level. The left monitor shows a young black man, the other an older white woman. The two actors, Tucker Smallwood and Joan Lancaster, speak variations of a series of sentences. The variations follow the same structure: “I was a good boy. You were a good boy. We were good boys. That was good.” The statements range from moral evaluations (“good,” “bad,” “virtuous,” “evil”), to feelings (“having fun,” “bored,” “love,” “hate”), to basic human needs (“live,” “work,” “play,” “sex,” “eat,” “drink,” “shit,” “piss,” and “sleep”), to requirements of civilization (“pay”). After the variation of the phrase “I don’t want to die,” which concludes with the phrase “This is fear of death,” the sequence begins again.

The man and the woman initially recite the sentences in a neutral tone. However, their expressions become increasingly emotional. As the tempo of their recitation differs slightly, the two often do not speak synchronously, so that statements with contradictory content overlap. A confusing effect is also created by the fact that the emotional expression often does not correspond to the content of what is being said.

With »Good Boy Bad Boy«, Naumann succeeds not only in recounting the average life of a person in a few terms. He also shows the confusion and anger of individuals when they realize how simple the script of their lives is.

Author: Margit Rosen

About the artist/s