Taking a better Giorni: Bruce Nauman at the PMA

Bruce Nauman’s Days and Giorni, although similar, are speak quite different languages and messages as installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Bruce Nauman, Giorni, as installed in the Perelman Building. Photo ©m.river on Flickr,, with photographer’s permission

The Italian version is transcendent. To see it, you will have to cross the Parkway to the Perelman Building. The gallery there is a glorious, large space. There the sun streams in through the arched windows, and the flat, rectangular speakers become milestones in a journey you take on foot across the alley of speakers. That sense of a pathway and a progression is critical to the success of the piece. The arched windows and shadows emphasize that sense of an arcade, a pathway through life.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s 40-Part Motet, installed at MoMA, 2005, photo by Roberta

The English version, Days, in the main building,  is squeezed into a relatively small gallery. There the rectangular speakers become a pedestrian but too-important presence that raises the question, Why does this look so homely? After all, the hardware is no homelier than Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller‘s 40-Part Motet at MoMA. Again a large space was an important factor. And so was the beauty of the music. Even though the speakers were a major visual presence, they helped people the large space.


Nauman’s piece is more techno, and the technology feels unfriendly in that space of white walls, technically mixed voices, and nothing but rectangles.