Pioneer of performance art, Vito Acconci takes us through his influential and dynamic career, from his beginnings as a poet, through performance and media, to the world of design and architecture. "I never liked art. I never wanted to do art. I wanna have some effect on the world. I want to do projects I never really seen before"
Vito Hannibal Acconci (b. 1940) is an American poet, designer, landscape architect, performance and installation artist.
Acconci began his career as a poet, editing 0 TO 9 with Bernadette Mayer in the late 1960s. In the late 1960s, Acconci transformed himself into a performance and video artist using his own body as a subject for photography, film, video, and performance. Most of his early work incorporated subversive social comment.
His performance and video work was marked heavily by confrontation and Situationism. In the mid-1970s, Acconci expanded his métier into the world of audio/visual installations.
One installation/performance piece from this period is Seedbed (January 15–29, 1971). In Seedbed Acconci lay hidden underneath a gallery-wide ramp installed at the Sonnabend Gallery, masturbating while vocalizing into a loudspeaker his fantasies about the visitors walking above him on the ramp. One motivation behind Seedbed was to involve the public in the work's production by creating a situation of reciprocal interchange between artist and viewer.
Cindy Nemser was the first art critic to write about Vito Acconci for "Arts Magazine" in 1971. Nemser also later did an interview with Vito Acconi which became the cover piece for Arts Magazine. In the article "Video: the Aesthetics of Narcissism", Rosalind Krauss refers to aspects of Narcissism apparent in the video work of Acconci. “A line of sight begin Acconci’s plane of vision ends on the eyes of his projected double”.
Krauss uses this description to underline aspects of narcissism in the Vito Acconci work "Centers." In the piece Acconci is filming himself pointing directly at himself for about 25 minutes, by doing so Acconci makes a nonsensical gesture that exemplifies the critical aspects of a work of art through the beginning of the 20th century. Krauss also goes on to explain the psychological basis behind the actions of video in comparison to discussions of object art.
In the 1980s, Acconci turned to permanent sculptures and installations. During this time he invited viewers to create artwork by activating machinery that erected shelters and signs. One of the most prominent examples of these temporary installations is titled Instant House, which was first created in 1980, but was recently exhibited in the summer of 2012 at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Later, in January 1983, Acconci was a visiting artist at Middlebury College. During that time, he completed Way Station I (Study Chamber), which was his first permanent installation.
The sculpture marked a transition for Acconci’s career from performance artist to architectural designer. He turned to the creation of furniture and prototypes of houses and gardens in the late 1980s, and in 1988 the artist founded Acconci Studio, which focused on theoretical design and building.
More recently, the artist has focused on architecture and landscape design that integrates public and private space. One example of this is "Walkways Through the Wall," which flow through structural boundaries of the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and provide seating at both ends. An example of this interest on the private/public space is the collaboration he did with architect Steven Holl when commissioned on a collaborative building project for Storefront for Art and Architecture.
The project replaced the existing facade with a series of twelve panels that pivot vertically or horizontally to open the entire length of the gallery directly onto the street. The project blurs the boundary between interior and exterior and, by placing the panels in different configurations, creates a multitude of different possible facades, and is now regarded as a contemporary architectural landmark.
One of his later works, "Lobby-for-the-Time-Being" is an installation in the North Wing Lobby of Bronx Museum of the Arts. It has been there since 2009. The installation fills the lobby with a web of white Corian, creating a long, undulating wall resembling giant paper snowflakes.
Acconci has taught at many institutions, including the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax; California Institute of the Arts, Valencia; Cooper Union; School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Yale University; University of Iowa, Pratt Institute; and the Parsons School of Design.
He currently teaches at Brooklyn College in the Art Department and Performance and Interactive Media Arts programs and is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Pratt Institute in the Graduate Architecture and Urban Design Department.
Vito Acconci | filmed by Out of Sync | NYC Sept 2015
Interview | Jesper Bundgaard
Camera and edit | Per Henriksen
Producer | Out of Sync
Artworks courtesy | Vito Acconci
© Out of Sync 2016