While studying for my BA, I remember learning about a man who followed strangers through the streets of New York City, with only one rule; once they entered a personal space, he had to stop. In Following Piece (1969), Vito Acconci aimed to break the boundary of the walls-in creative by utilizing these strangers to show him direction and be the leading factor of his work. Vito Acconci's career has been known as one of the most bold and brave within post-war American art. Seen through his performance pieces, installation, video work, and photography, Acconci's many pieces remain a stable within these genres.
This, however, is probably the opposite of what Acconci wanted. In an effort to consistently question art forms themselves, he based his art around, "a hatred of art, a hatred of museums, because it was the opposite of everyday life". Even among an era of radical artistic practice, Acconci stood alone. Enthralled with the natural unease of American society, Acconci made his life's work dedicated to testing the limits.
Acconci's audacity, however, was never limited as seen with his most infamous performance piece, Seedbed (1972), in which Acconci laid under an angled floor with a microphone, speaking to the visitors who walked over him as he masturbated. Just one of his furtively created performances during his most active time, the 1960's and '70s, Acconci sometimes produced a performance every week. His numerous pieces mostly centered on his interest in this concept of the human experience and featured some kind of bodily discomfort, gender play, or even disfiguration of his own body.
Following his very active years of performance work, Acconci took a different route by becoming an architect and designer. With not much success, Acconci later became a professor at a number of art schools in New York. Passing away this past week, at the age of 77, Acconci left his mark on American art, but more importantly as an explorer of the human condition; our experiences with discomfort, anxiety, and the knowledge of our individual everyday performances.
Documentation of Following Piece, 1969. Courtesy of Khan Academy.
Documentation of Seedbed, 1972. Courtesy of National Academy Museum.