Tag Archives: Vito Acconci

Learning from being there?

concordia talk
[natty flyer designed by Abe, who organised the talk].

Last night (December 4, 2007) I gave an informal slideshow talk about re-enactment and performance art at Concordia University in Montreal. Abe de Bruyn, an Aussie performance practitioner who I had met in Melbourne a few years back, is studying here now, and has initiated a series of guest lectures broadly on the topic of video and performance art.

I collected together a bunch of pictures I took on my recent trip to New York, to discuss re-enacting performance art as a strategy which is relevant to art history, archiving and documentation, as well something which is of social and phenomenological interest.
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(re)presenting performance

[for related discussion, see this thread].

sigh. i gotta be overseas:…..

Marina Abramovic (re)performs works by Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, FF
Alumns, at the Guggenheim Museum, NY, April 8, 9.

This two-day symposium is a prelude to the performance and exhibition
project Marina Abramovic: Seven Easy Pieces, scheduled for fall 2005, in
which the artist (re)performs and reinterprets seminal works from the 1970s
by Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, Valie Export, Bruce Nauman, Gina Pane, and

(Re)presenting Performance
FRI APR 8, 48 PM and SAT APR 9, 10 AM6 PM
A series of panels comprised of art historians, artists, choreographers,
filmmakers, and curators investigates the various histories of performance,
the plausibility of its repetition, and the urgency of its preservation.
Performance artists active during the 1970s are interviewed individually
about these issues, and younger artists discuss the impact of their legacy.

For more information, call the Box Office at (212) 423-3587.
Information at:
(scroll to bottom of page)http://www.guggenheim.org/education/tours_lectures.shtml


reviews of the forum (the re-enactments themselves will occur in October 2005):

Marina Abramovic Plays With Herself: Re-Performing Others, Engaging the Audience, by
Theresa Smalec:

"Her decision to repeat specific pieces that influenced her work by redoing their original scores provoked symposium panelists to ponder: "What does it mean to re-enact a performance that was only supposed to happen once?" This seemed like an abstract speculation until the Guggenheim's curator addressed Abramovic with a flustered expression and whispered, "Why re-perform Vito Acconci's Seedbed as a woman?" Nervous laughter emanated from the audience. Abramovic calmly replied, saying it was partly the "taboo element" that intrigued her, and partly the "sculptural element." Too young to have witnessed Acconci's 1972 performance, I desperately tried to visualize the nature of the piece that people were chuckling about. Seedbed sounded seedy, but in an exhilarating way. What specific actions were required to re-embody it?"


(Re)Performance at the Guggenheim, by Rodrigo Tisi:
"In the early days of performance art there was resistance to the idea of documentation, since the presence of a camera would rub up against the sacred fleeting moment of the event. But just as that pious attitude has faded, so too might the resistance to the idea of re-performance, and the merger of performance art with theater. There is a kind of brutal unsentimentality in the prospect of re-performance: performance art must admit that it is already a codified genre, without the marginal charm it once had. It's not a young discipline any more; it has to decide how it wants to grow up."


Reperforming the Score, by T. Nikki Cesare:
"The danger in this experiment lies in the subtle divide that occurs between composers and performers in Western classical music. That is, even though a woman's performance of Corporel might offer an entirely different reading of the piece, and even though the "open works" by such canonized composers as Cage, Boulez, Ligeti, and Stockhausen grant the performer more agency, allowing performance art to be defined by its originator rather than the body in the immediate moment of performance might not only compromise the sociopolitical context in which it is (re)performed, but also the autobiographical and intensely personal relationship between piece and performer, and performer and spectator. Perhaps the way to negotiate this divide is to re-evaluate both genres, establishing that the ephemerality that enables performance art to retain its political and personal impact also informs musical and theatrical, and visual art performance. The score, then, like the body, becomes the map by which the audience finds, or loses, their way. Either possibility opens up a Pandora's Box of opportunity."

noos from noo york

On the way back from Montreal, we spent a few days in Brooklyn, nosing around there and Manhattan… two highlights:

Anthony McCall's film installation Doubling Back (2003) at the Whitney Museum.
Rumour has it that the recent resurgence in interest in McCall's films of the 1970s [especially Line Describing a Cone] has prompted him to get back into the game. Line Describing a Cone. is like no other film – during its 30 minute duration, a single point of light grows, inch by inch, to form a circle on the screen. The screen, however, aint where the action is – the room, filled with fog, becomes a container for a massive sculptural object – a cone of light – and an audience is free to roam, and play with the shell of light as it curves over your head. The piece is marvellous as a reductive structuralist film – literally, all you have is light and duration, and McCall makes you aware of the travelling path of the light beam – but it's also a great participatory experience, and very liberating, once you get over the inhibition to play that's been programmed in as a natural part of film and art-viewing practice.

Where Doubling Back goes beyond and above Line Describing a Cone, is in its infinitite loop-ness. While the earlier piece had a definite beginning and end, and a fixed audience, the newer one plays continuously, and visitors can casually enter and exit the gallery space. [in this case, the film was screened all day, every Sunday, as part of the Whitney Biennale]…In that dark room, I lost all sense of time – I think I watched the piece all the way through twice, but I couldn't be sure…

In addition, the shapes in Doubling Back are far more complex than the simple cone – two curved lines intersect each other, each moving almost imperceptibly slowly, constantly changing their curvatures. Concentrate on the movement, and you don't see it – look away for a few minutes, and you'll notice the change. The curved lines at times scoop under your knees, sometimes forming very a very tight leaf-like shape, and at other times they open right out, soaring above and around your head. Standing in the middle of these shapes, and gazing back towards the projector, I felt curiously disembodied – like my eyes, in my head, were my only sensory organs. But when I walked back out of the conoid shape, the light caressed my skin and I could palpably feel its tickle like the surface tension of a liquid.

Doubling Back was a delightful, subtle experience, in the midst of an exhibition [the Whitney Biennial] otherwise too chock-full of bitsy art and gossiping visitors.

[ps… you can see a page on McCall at the Whitney Museum's website, but I can't link to it directly – you will have to go to it [http://www.whitney.org/biennial/] and select "Explore Biennial Artists" in their stupid Macromedia Flash web pages…] … better still, have a look at a pic of Doubling Back here: http://www.artnet.com/artwork/424029518/_Anthony_McCall_Doubling_Back.html

Vito Acconci archive at Barbara Gladstone Gallery
Acconci is a legendary New Yorker whose artistic output [performances, videos, texts, photographs] between 1969 and 1973 was enormous. It seems evident from his work in this period that he was working some heavy shit out, personally – especially in his private relationships. In one work he would obsessively follow a stranger in the street, in another he masturbated under a temporary floor, apparently fantasising about the gallery visitors walking above him. He tried to stuff all of his partners long hair into his mouth, and thus get closer to "consuming" her; and in one durational piece, he waited each night at the end of an abandoned pier for lone visitors, to whom he would tell a [presumably damaging] secret. In many of his works Acconci used the formulae established for "conceptual" art-making to push the limits of his own psyche, to go beyond the "normal" and the "comfortable, especially with regards to daily behaviour.

With his work of the early 1970s I never get the idea that Acconci is simply "making art" or playing out hollow gestures for philosophical or intellectual pleasures. His work is moving and personally challenging, even at a distance of 30 (!) years.

In this show in New York, hundreds of type-written "scores" for performances and activities are presented, alongside photographs and video, where available, of the processes/outcomes. Plenty of the scores, it seems, were never realised, or else were self-sufficient and required no documentation.

One of my favourite pieces [which also I saw recently at the ICA in London] is a video in which Acconci, circa 1972, presents a slide show of some of his work from the previous years. There are two levels of "disclosure" in the slideshow. In the first, the artist, his back to us, selects a slide and points to aspects within it, explaining very simply and logically what he was attempting to achieve. Every so often, however, he gets up, walks to the wall on which the slide is projected, and turns sideways, whispering, as if to somebody just off camera, a woman who he is obviously close to. And he says things like "…but only you, only you would know what this piece was really about, only you know what happened between us that July, when she came and began living with us, and the tension, the jealousy was thick in the house…" and so on. What I found moving about this work was the need, the tangible need to disclose, everything, and so to avoid letting "Art" take over, for the work to become merely an "art-work". The risk is clear – Acconci's art activities could (and did?) change his life.

[links: Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Acconci Studios]