Vito Acconci

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Vito Acconci

Vito Acconci 1973
Birth name Vito Hannibal Acconci
Born January 20, 1940 (1940-01-20) (age 69)
Bronx, New York
Nationality American
Field landscape architect, Installation art
Training College of the Holy Cross.
University of Iowa.
'Crash', photointaglio, aquatint, relief and shaped embossing by Vito Acconci, 1985
'City of Words', lithograph by Vito Acconci, 1999

Vito Hannibal Acconci (born January 24, 1940) is a Bronx, New York-born, Brooklyn-based architect, landscape architect, and installation artist.

His father was an Italian immigrant who took him to museums and opera houses and gave him his first arts education. Vito attended Regis High School on New York City. He received a B.A. in literature from the College of the Holy Cross in 1962 and an M.F.A. in literature and poetry from the University of Iowa.

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. His performance and video work was marked heavily by confrontation and Situationism. In the mid 1970s, Acconci expanded his metier into the world of audio/visual installations.

One noted 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.

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 2008, in an interview with Brian Sherwin for Myartspace, Vito discussed Seedbed at length. Vito discussed the title Seedbed and the connection it had to the performance, stating, "I knew what my goal had to be: I had to produce seed, the space I was in should become a bed of seed, a field of seed – in order to produce seed, I had to masturbate – in order to masturbate, I had to excite myself."[1]

During the 1980s he invited viewers to create artwork by activating machinery that erected shelters and signs. He also turned to the creation of furniture and to prototypes of houses and gardens in the late 1980s.

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.

Another notable example is his Dirt Wall (1992) at the Arvada Center Sculpture Garden in Colorado. The wall begins outside the Arvada Center and extends inside, rising from ground level to a height of 24 feet. The glass and steel wall contains a mixture of volcanic rock, various types of sand, red dolomite, and topsoil which are visible through the glass panels, and represents an attempt to bring what is underground up, and what is outside in.

He 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; and the Parsons School of Design. He currently teaches at Brooklyn College in the Art Department and Performance and Interactive Media Arts programs. He is represented by Albion Gallery in London and New York.


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  1. ^ "Art Space Talk: Vito Acconci", Myartspace, 17 April 2008. Retrieved 16 May 2008.

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