Vito Acconci

Year and place of birth: 1940, New York City, United States Date of death: 2017

Vito Acconci was originally a poet, but began to make visual art in 1969. He quickly became one of the pioneers of performance and video art. Acconci’s conceptual video works, which sprang from his performances in the late 60s and 70s, are technically simple and roughly executed. They have a powerful, radical directness. In the majority of his ‘psychodramatic’ video performances, the artist engages in self-examination, using his body as a medium. Language was an important catalyst. Acconci also used standard video techniques – such as close-ups and fixed camera angles – to create pseudo-intimist settings in which he conducted intense acts that occasionally bordered on exhibitionism. With performances of this kind, the artist wanted to force a powerful dialogue with the audience, through which he could both critique and disrupt the relationship between the private self – both his own and the viewer’s – and the public space.

Acconci switched to making monumental installations and sculptures in 1974. In these works too, the relationship between individual and public space continued to take centre stage. The majority of Acconci’s monumental installations also require public participation. In 1988, the artist established the Acconci Studio, where together with like-minded architects and engineers he developed projects for urban public spaces, in which sculpture, installation, design and art were combined with architecture.

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