Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Open Book, Vito Acconci, 1974

In this video work from 1974 Vito Acconci's open mouth is framed by the camera in an extreme close-up, bringing the viewer uncomfortably close. A desperate sense of strained urgency comes across as Acconci gasps, "I'll accept you, I won't shut down, I won't shut you out.... Im open to you, I'm open to everything.... This is not a trap, we can go inside, yes, come inside...." Acconci continues to plead in this way for the length of the tape, his mouth held unnaturally wide open. The pathological psychology of such enforced openness betrays a desperate struggle to accept and be accepted by others. The sustained image of Acconci's open mouth also evidences a sinister, vaguely threatening streak that is more or less evident in much of Acconci's work.

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 performances—including Claim (1971) and Seedbed (1972)—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. Consistently exploring the dynamics of intimacy, trust, and power, the focus of Acconci's projects gradually moved from his physical body (Conversions, 1971) toward the psychology of interpersonal transactions (Pryings, 1971), and later, to the cultural and political implications of the performative space he set up for the camera (The Red Tapes, 1976). Since the late '70s, Acconci has designed architectural and installation works for public spaces.

Above partially copied from, and for more information (and to order the tape) see:$tapedetail?OPENBOOK

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