“Architecture is not about space but about time.”
Vito Acconci’s artistic legacy is boundless, his influence pervading all mediums of art, beyond just those he mastered. This year Acconci turned 76, and while his fertile mind has continued to produce sculptures and structures all over the world, much of his early work in video and performance has gone long unseen. This month the MoMA PS1 in Queens will open the first U.S. retrospective of Acconci’s work in three decades.
The installation, “Vito Acconci: Where We Are Now (Who Are We Anyway?), 1976,” will open June 19th and aims to capture the artist’s influential and dynamic career, from his beginnings as a poet, through his dramatic and impactful evolution as a performance and media artist, to his eventual departure into the world of architecture and design.
Acconci’s performances were liberating and unpredictable. His perhaps most well known piece was “Seedbed” (1972), where he created a slanted gallery floor which he lay hidden underneath, masturbating while visitors walked above him, and vocalizing into a loudspeaker his fantasies about them. Most noted about this pieces has been its lurid audacity which, while, an indispensable element of the project, is not its preeminent effect. The nature of the space also created a reciprocal interchange between artist and viewer. In talking about the performance of “Seedbed” to the New York Times this spring, Acconci explained,
“I wanted people to go through space somehow, not to have people in front of space, looking at something, bowing down to something, I wanted space people could be involved in.”
In this footage of Acconci, from 1988, he explains his philosophy of urban architecture and his “Cars in Collision” sculpture, as we see the installation progress.
“Maybe the only way to change the urban landscape as it exists, is to take elements that we already have and collide them.”
This footage of Vito Acconci was produced by MICA-TV, collaborative effort between Carole Ann Klonarides and Michael Owen, who began making video portraits of contemporary artists in 1980. It was featured in an episode called “ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN” of our award-winning TV series The 90’s, first broadcast on PBS in 1990. Watch the full episode at mediaburn.org.
A special thanks to filmmaker Joe Angio, for sharing the news of the retrospective and bringing this portrait of Vito Acconci in 1988 back into view.
If you are interested in seeing more from Acconci, the black and white photo above is a still from Marc Santo’s short film about the artist, “Unbuilt.” This film, Produced in 2014 for Crane.tv, offers a insight into his more contemporary works and the realizations of his designs.