Centers, 1971 (video still), video, 22:28 minutes, sound, b/w, courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix [EAI], New York
Many of Vito Acconci's works were based on elements of seduction, sexual provocation or violent solicitation; at the same time, they also contained strong humoristic elements. In some cases, the artist sequestered himself in a separate space while his performances were projected on screens or heard by means of an amplification system. In addition, Acconci also created video works, performing for the camera without an audience.
In one of his best-known performances, Claim Excerpts (1971), Acconci sat blindfolded for three hours in a New York basement, holding a metal pipe in his hand. His figure appeared on a monitor situated in the gallery space above the basement. Acconci was interested in fostering a state of deep self-conviction concerning his unequivocal ownership of the fortified territory he created for himself. To this end, he spoke to himself out loud in an increasingly agitated and obsessive manner, until he was uttering death threats. This action was invasive and perturbing, yet simultaneously created a sense of estrangement and distance.
In his work Centers (1971), Acconci points with his hand directly at his own reflection in the monitor opposite him, thus simultaneously observing himself and pointing at the viewer. The double meaning of this gesture raises essential issues concerning the medium of video; the artist is caught in his own mirror image between the camera and the monitor - a reflection of a narcissistic psychological state characteristic of video art in general. Acconci's pointing finger breaks the code of bourgeois etiquette by intruding upon the privacy of another person - in this case the viewer.
In the course of the performance Seed Bed (1971), Acconci lay under a ramp constructed in the Sonnabend Gallery in New York and masturbated for eight hours, while describing his sexual fantasies to the gallery visitors walking above. His descriptions were broadcast in the gallery space by means of an amplifying system, while his body remained invisible. In this manner, Acconci created a tension between direct, provocative seduction and an elusive presence.
Born in New York, 1940; lives and works in New York