Consider how the meaning of words and sentences can change. Consider Nauman's 1972 neon "Eat Death" where the word eat flashes inside the word death. Find words within words in poems, soliloquies, sections of novels and distort the original meaning. Give pupils the sentence "You May Not Want To Be Here" (from "First Poem Piece 1968") and ask them to make as many sentences as they can by removing words and changing spellings.
Compare the results with Nauman's text:
You may not want to be here
You may want to be here
You want to be here
You want to be
You may want to be
You may not want to be
You may not want
You may want
You may be
You may not be
You may not be here
You may be here
You may not want to hear
You may want to hear
You want to hear
You may not hear
You may hear
Consider how language can elicit emotion.
Look at the text from "Left or StandingStanding or Left Standing" (is part of "Installation with Yellow Lights 1971") which reads:
Left or Standing
Left or Standing. His precision and accuracy
suggesting clean cuts, leaving
a vacancy, a slight physical
depression as though I had been
in a vaguely uncomfortable place
for a not long but undeterminable
period; not waiting.
Standing or Left Standing
Standing or Left Standing.
His preciseness and acuity left
small cuts on the tips of my
fingers or across the backs of
my hands without any need to
sit or otherwise withdraw.
Ask students if this makes sense. The answer is almost.
How does it make them feel? Uneasy?
Which words make them feel this way? By making the words almost the same, has Nauman confused the reader further?
Explain that the words were part of an installation which placed them by three harshly lit, mind-bendingly proportioned rooms.
Explain that the idea was that the words would conjure a similar feeling to the rooms.
Bring in magazine pictures or go to places in the school.
How do they make the students feel?
Produce a piece of creative writing that will elicit similar feelings in the reader as the magazine pictures or places in the school.
Ideas at the exhibition
* Find a recording where Nauman has made a trap out of language.
* Find a recording that makes you feel scaredanxiousangry amusedfrustratedrelaxed.
* Go to "No No No No".
How many emotions is the speaker expressing with the word "No".
* How do the speakers feel who are reading "Pete and Repeat" and "Dark and Stormy Night"?