Bruce Nauman: Vices and Virtues - Stuart Collection at UC San Diego

3/7/2022; 2 minutes

Bruce Nauman's "Vices and Virtues" for the Stuart Collection at UC San Diego consists of seven pairs of words superimposed in blinking neon, which run like a frieze around the top of the Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Laboratory. Seven vices alternate with seven virtues: FAITH/LUST, HOPE/ENVY, CHARITY/SLOTH, PRUDENCE/PRIDE, JUSTICE/AVARICE, TEMPERANCE/GLUTTONY, and FORTITUDE/ANGER.

The virtues flash sequentially clockwise around the building at one rate; and the vices circulate counterclockwise at a slightly faster rate. At brief intervals, all seven virtues and all seven vices flash together. The progression of the two repeating cycles playing off each other allows all possible combinations of the words to be displayed. This complicated performance, generated by the mechanical sequencing of a simple moral dichotomy, dramatizes the instability of any ethical judgment.

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