Power Fields: Explorations in the Work of Vito Acconci

vito.jpgOne of my (still working) favorite performance artists, Vito Acconci, is part of a broader exhibition and seminar featuring his work in terms of power. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out. Watch the Slought Foundation website for more online content. The announcement follows below:
Slought Foundation, Philadelphia, in conjunction with the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania, is pleased to announce Power Fields: Explorations in the Work of Vito Acconci, an exhibition featuring the work of artist Vito Acconci and the Acconci Studio. The exhibition will be on display in the galleries at Slought Foundation from February 15-March 31, 2008; the opening reception will take place on Friday, February 29th, 2008 from 6:30-8:30pm, with a full-day symposium to follow on March 1, 2008 (for more information on related activities, visit http:://slought.org/search/acconci/). The exhibition is co-curated by Christine Poggi (Professor, Department of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania) and Meredith Malone (Assistant Curator, Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis). A publication documenting the exhibition and associated conference is forthcoming.

Images: Vito Acconci, “Following Piece,” 1969; “House of Cars #2,” 1988; “World in Your Bones,” 1999; “Pryings,” 1971

Titled Power Fields: Explorations in the Work of Vito Acconci, the show and publication will provide an occasion to think about the artist’s engagement with the experience of power, understood through the activation of, or indeed the attempt to control or dominate, specific bounded zones. These have included the page, streets in New York, a basement, galleries, and public environments. Acconci developed his notion of the “power field” by reading the works of sociologists such as Kurt Lewin and Edward Hall in the late-sixties. The exhibition mobilizes the artist’s concept by focusing on works in different media including writing, street works, performances, photo works, videos and video installations, “self-erecting” structures, clothing, and architectural projects. The exhibition thus addresses the ways in which Acconci’s work illuminates, employs, or contests the assertion of power, its relation to the body, and to public and private spaces.

Instead of a comprehensive retrospective, the exhibition focuses on the artist’s practice of writing, and his exploration of text, body, and space. Recent interpretations of the artist’s work have seen writing as a determining core; while in no way denying the artist’s continuing engagement with forms of writing, this exhibition instead considers the artist’s interest in the relation of writing to the body and the environment, as well as to social and political power structures. The exhibition will also explore the artist’s plans for several controversial and unrealized architectural projects. Acconci’s earliest forays into the realm of architecture in the 1980s marked a major shift in his work from an emphasis on the individual body (often his own) to the social body in an urban context. At the same time, the artist’s focus on architecture, the built environment, and relevant social systems has emerged as a natural extension of his earlier interests in probing idiomatic language, the boundaries of the body, and the unstable delineations between private and public spaces. Recognizing the fact that architecture has the power to control the body and the rhythms of daily life, Acconci visualizes structures that perpetuate instability and the possibility of choice on the part of the user. The projects, which are collaborative undertakings with a team of designers and architects, focus primarily on the creation of dynamic circulation systems that bend, twist, ooze, flow, bulge, and ripple across an existing landscape or a body. Flexibility, mobility, and sociability are prized above all else. The exhibition at Slought Foundation will also address Acconci’s fascination with mobile architecture and the multiple ways in which his designs grapple with the dramatically altered conceptions of public space and interactivity in an electronic age.
Vito Acconci was born in Bronx, NY in 1940, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. His early work took the form of fiction and poetry, and his last poems reduced words to indices of the writer’s and reader’s travel across the page. In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, his first artworks used performance, photos, film and video as instruments of self-analysis and person-to-person relationships. His audio and video installations of the mid-1970s turned an exhibition-space into a community meeting-place. His architectural games of the early 80s made performative spaces for viewers, whose activity resulted in the construction and deconstruction of house prototypes. In the mid 1980s the work crossed over into architecture, landscape, and industrial design. In 1988 he started Acconci Studio, a theoretical-design and building workshop. Their method is, on the one hand, to make a new space by turning an old one inside-out and upside-down; and, on the other hand, to insert within a site a capsule that grows out of itself and morphs itself. Their tendency is toward leftover sites and outlands, where hypotheses might be buildable and testable as future cities. They treat architecture as an occasion for activity; they make spaces fluid, changeable, and portable. For more information on the Acconci Studio, visit http://www.acconci.com/

1 thought on “Power Fields: Explorations in the Work of Vito Acconci

  1. Pingback: VITO ACCONCI « ::: ROLAND WEGERER :::

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