Vito Acconci

VISUAL ARTS FACILITY,

PERFORMANCE SPACE

Feb. 24, 2010  6:30 p.m.
Admission: FREE

READ THIS WORD THEN READ THIS WORD READ THIS WORD NEXT READ THIS WORD NOW,” wrote now 70-year-old Vito Acconci — internationally acclaimed, Brooklyn-based poet-turned-artist-turned-architect and soon-to-be UCSD guest lecturer — in one of his early works.

Acconci’s career began in the early 1960s when the writer (of mostly poetry) was exploring the relationship between the space of a page and how it interacted with the reader, the author and the author’s words.

He shifted from word to action by the end of the decade, when he transitioned into performance and video art, continuing his exploration of space through bodily pieces that challenged object-subject relations and public-private distinctions.

His most famous — and most controversial — work, Seedbed (1972), involved Acconci lying under the floor of a gallery, masturbating and speaking his fantasies into a microphone, while the people walking above listened through loudspeakers.

Acconci turned to structural design and construction in the 1980s — action to architecture. His installations still relied on audience participation: In one piece, viewers rode a bicycle to activate machinery that erected the walls of a house.

In Acconci’s current work, the focus on movement within space remains. The architecture and installations of Acconci Studio, founded in 1988, are fluid, organic structures designed for activity and mobility. One of the studio’s most well-known works is an artificial shell-shaped island of glass, steel and blue light floating atop the Mur River in Graz, Austria. It houses a cafe, playground and amphitheater, and is connected to both banks by suspended walkways.

Although his career has evolved over various mediums, Acconci’s work can’t hide its literary beginnings. In a winter 2006 interview with writer Shelley Jackson, he described his architecture as a sort of language.

“The rest of the sentence of the world still exists, but we make this parenthesis within it. Then maybe sometimes you start the parenthesis, but you forget to end it, and the clause instills itself into the real world.”

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