Installed in an enclosed, darkened space, Clown Torture consists of two rectangular pedestals, each supporting two pairs of stacked color monitors (one turned upside down, one turned on its side); two large, color-video projections on facing walls; and sound from all six video displays. The monitors play four narrative sequences in perpetual loops, each chronicling an absurd misadventure of a clown, who is played to brilliant effect by the actor Walter Stevens. According to the artist, distinctions may be made among the clown protagonists; one is the “Emmett Kelly dumb clown; one is the old French Baroque clown; one is a sort of traditional polka-dot, red-haired, oversized show clown; and one is a jester.” In “No, No, No, No (Walter),” the clown incessantly screams “No!” while jumping, kicking, or lying down; in “Clown with Goldfish,” he struggles to balance a fish bowl on the ceiling with the handle of a broom; in “Clown with Water Bucket,” he repeatedly opens a door that is booby-trapped with a bucket of water, which falls on his head; and finally, in “Pete and Repeat,” he succumbs to the terror of a seemingly inescapable nursery rhyme: “Pete and Repeat are sitting on a fence. Pete falls off. Who’s left? Repeat.” Of his work, Nauman has said, “From the beginning I was trying to see if I could make art that … was just there all at once. Like getting hit in the face with a baseball bat. Or better, like getting hit in the back of the head. You never see it coming; it just knocks you down… . The kind of intensity that doesn’t give you any trace of whether you’re going to like it or not.” Clown Torture functions in very much this way: as an assault on viewers’ aural and visual perception. One of Nauman’s most spectacular achievements in video installation, it marked a major new direction and prefigured his recent, more complex environments involving monitors, projections, and other sculptural elements.