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  • Writer's pictureJo Sutherst

Sustainable Prospects – Shoot Mod4#2 – Responding to Bruce Nauman – Full Face vs Cropped

20170917-IAIN NAUMAN-2

Figure 1: Sutherst. Iain. 2017

20170917-IAIN NAUMAN-2

Figure 2: Sutherst. Iain Crop. 2017

Considering versions 1 and 2 of the Nauman inspired shoot has demonstrated that my intended outcome has been successful.

I had intended that the full face versions seen in version 1 would have a humorous and comical feel to them and that the cropped versions would be more ambiguous and disconcerting.

The full face images (figure 1) are amusing and make the viewer smile and maybe even laugh at the face being pulled.

Cropping the same image in figure 2 gives a feel that is more in keeping with Nauman’s work. The image appears to mock the viewer.  It does not seem amusing; in fact, it feels somewhat threatening and confrontational.

The viewer becomes more uncomfortable when viewing the image.  The intent and context are not clear. The face has become anonymous.

Removing the eyes from the image has made the intent difficult to read.  As humans, we rely on the eye expression to explain to us how the person is feeling.  Figure 2 cannot be read in that way, so the meaning is taken from the mouth expression.  It is unclear whether the person is smiling, grimacing or scowling. This unnerves us.

“The eyes of men converse as much as their tongues, with the advantage, that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood all the world over. When the eyes say one thing, and the tongue another, a practised man relies on the language of the first.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1890: 45)

The language of our eyes is extremely powerful. It is the most effective tool in non-verbal communication.  Our eyes do not lie.  They portray what we are thinking and how we are feeling. Without them in the cropped images, our brains find it difficult to correctly interpret the image.  The cropped images exploit this uncertainty and encourage a deeper interaction with the images as the viewer tries to interpret them.


Emerson, R. (1890). Behavior. In The conduct of life.

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