Adi Louria Hayon

"The Dialectics of Failed Sublimation in Bruce Nauman’s Art"

Friday, December 15 // 12.00h // JGU Fakultätssaal Philosophicum


The error is recognized as such but it remains as an object of good-natured polemic.
Gaston Bachelard, 1987

Since 1966 American artist Bruce Nauman is exploring the relation between the body,
perception, technology, and the production of knowledge. From experimentations with sensual
perception, through his critique of the reliability of sight, Nauman’s work exhibit the doubtful
reign of epistemological equipment to produce knowledge. Between the mind’s capacity to
produce knowledge and the subsistence of the sensing body we find the operation of sublimation,
which Nauman keeps as a perpetual process by continuously failing its operation.
This paper will show how Nauman exhibits the perpetual work of dialectical sublimation
performed in the asymmetry between the subject of experience and the phenomena experienced;
an asymmetry grounded in questioning the confidence in the knowledge produced by the cogito,
and the knowledge produced by the senses. By perpetually failing sublimation to manage this
dialectical gap Nauman poses sublimation as a mode to perform the doubtful validity of attaining
knowledge by the senses. A comprehensive analysis of dialectical sublimation shows that the
American artist performs the failure of sublimation to expose the autonomy of the mind, while
foregrounding the body through sensuous aesthetics that exceed the search for certitude to
sustain doubt by perpetually failing sublimation.

Adi Louria Hayon is an assistant professor in the Art History Department at Tel Aviv University. Her research
focuses on the connections between art and philosophy in the modern and contemporary eras. She
published in Leonardo Music Journal, Religion and the Arts, and Afterimage. She is currently
writing a book dedicated to the problems of instrumentality in the work of Bruce Nauman. In 2016
– 2017 she is a research fellow at the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies: Jewish
Scepticism, in Hamburg University.