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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Vito Acconci at MoMA PS1

Vito Acconci at MoMA PS1

Image © Nora Wilby

Image © Nora Wilby

As part of their 40th anniversary celebration, MoMA PS1 opened their Vito Acconci exhibition, WHERE ARE WE NOW (WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?), 1976. The solo exhibition features Acconci’s early works, including his writing, photography, and film. 

Acconci is a dynamic, multi-talented artist, with his creativity and skill ranging from poetry to architecture. His works explore the human condition, sexuality, identity, and the body. Acconci’s exhibition is nothing short of compelling, shocking, and inexplicably interactive. Upon entering the exhibit, you are visually and audibly engaged by his videos, many of which he is the subject of. In his “Centers” (1971) piece, Acconci causes the spectator to engage with his film; he positions himself in the center of the screen while also pointing at the center, and in turn, the audience. He said this allowed him to “wid[en] [his] focus onto passing viewers. [He’s] looking straight out by looking straight in.” This screen was attached to the same installation as, “Pull,” which is a piece where he rotates around Kathy Dillon, a woman frequently featured in his work, as she rotates as well, much like the Earth and the Sun. Both “Centers” and “Pull,” although seemingly simple concepts, explore the wider notion of human connection. 

Image © Nora Wilby

Image © Nora Wilby

Another room focuses more on human physicality, including “Openings” (1970), a video featuring Acconci pulling out his body hair. The rest of the room has other videos simultaneously playing of Acconci masturbating, lighting his hair on fire, and rubbing his stomach. Although shocking, and rather disturbing, the room compels you to think about human physicality behind closed doors by shoving it right in your face. 

Image © Nora Wilby

Image © Nora Wilby

The other rooms feature his photography and writing. Acconci’s photography focuses largely on his installations and performance pieces, while incorporating his writings, which heavily detail the images. Typical of Acconci’s architecture and design interests, his photography is displayed in installation form; large metal pieces are integrated in a maze-like fashion with his images placed, frameless, with their explanations and titles. Along the walls, more of Acconci’s writing appears like chalk on chalkboard, showing you more of the unconventionality of his mind. 

Image © Nora Wilby

Image © Nora Wilby

Acconci and his works will make you think, engage you, and remain with you long after you exit onto Jackson Avenue in Queens. It is too shocking and compelling not to, and it was precisely Acconci’s intended reaction. 

VITO ACCONCI: WHERE WE ARE NOW (WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?), 1976 is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1, and Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art, with Margaret Aldredge, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1, Richard Wilson, Chief of Installation, MoMA PS1, and Vito and Maria Acconci. The exhibition is on view from June 19th through September 18th, 2016. 

Images © Nora Wilby

Article © Liana DeMasi

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