…what [Marcel] Duchamp is to Sculpture” -Carole Garmon
I hadn’t heard of Vito Acconci before yesterday afternoon when I read these two posts on professor Carole Garmon’s Video Art class blog which led to a discussion (in person!) shortly afterwards about this controversial video artist.
Check out this description of his work excerpted from the Video Data Bank:
A poet of the New York school in the early- and mid-1960s, Vito Acconci moved toward performance, sound, and video work by the end of the decade. Acconci changed direction in order to “define [his] body in space, find a ground for [him]self, an alternate ground for the page ground [he] had as a poet.” Acconci’s early performancesâ€”including Claim (1971) and Seedbed (1972)â€”were extremely controversial, transgressing assumed boundaries between public and private space, and between audience and performer. Positioning his own body as the simultaneous subject and object of the work, Acconci’s early video tapes took advantage of the medium’s self-reflexive potential in mediating his own and the viewer’s attention.
What’s so striking to me about this description, and something Carole pointed out immediately when we talked yesterday, is how Acconci’s fascination with “transgressing assumed boundaries between public and private space” in the early 70s with video has never been more relevant than during our current moment. Now that millions of people can easily allow a complete stranger into their intimate, self-reflexive world vis-a-vis video thanks to sites like YouTube, Acconci’s work may prove quite fascinating as way to think through the impact of an imagined self in the advent of relatively affordable technology that allows us to mediate our identities for unknown viewers around the world.
Carole also pointed me to Acconci’s Theme Song, an incredibly disturbing video that features Acconci lying on his living room floor smoking a cigarette while unnervingly flirting with an unknown viewer on the other end of his video camera–and act which might sound rather common in this day and age. He is so very schmary and gross which makes this piece all the more effective. I have embedded it below, it is nine minutes long, but even two or three will give you a good sense of what’s happening here. It will take thirty seconds before you see Acconci, for he seems to be setting up the camera during the initial part of this video broadcast -can anyone say YouTube?
If that didn’t scare you away (and it should have!) check out these two crazy shorts:
Can I possibly count the ways UMW Blogs is continually feeding my curiosity, imagination, and general thirst for all things bizarre? Thanks Carole!