About the Photographer
Vito Acconci's work exposes ways of understanding critical relationships between subject and object, actor and audience, viewer and viewed. Through his work, Acconci posits the notion that performance--namely the performative relationships constituting our understanding of the world and its members--is a tenet of humanity, social consciousness and the comprehension of the self. Acconci's pieces ultimately call attention to the audience's role in interpreting or experiencing any given work, though at the same time, Acconci applies the framework of performance to autobiographical exploration. As both actor and audience, Acconci can inflect the response to his own body and actions, either as it is received by others, or himself. As a form of individual expression, performance is inextricably tied to the presence and cognizance of an audience, and the basis of Acconci's work is to develop new ways of capturing, replaying, and interpreting performance.
For his piece 12 Pictures, Acconci photographed his audience with every step he took as he walked across a stage. His documentation of the audience represents the reflection of his act: he has not exactly documented his own performance, rather the reception of that performance visible on the faces in his audience. Acconci suggests a new way of construing performance by positioning himself as both subject and object. The effect of these subtle variations on the viewer–brought about by the reflexive potential of film and video—is measured on a much larger scale; attention is shifted away from the word itself, towards its meaning and the social implications of interpreting these seemingly simple words. Another variation of this attitude can be gleaned from his video piece Watch in which Acconci points his finger at the lens of the camera for 20 minutes; standing in the background, he also looks straight ahead at the viewer, at his own image, and quite possibly at the revelatory potential offered by the dual or reflective gaze.
Acconci started his artistic practice as a writer of fiction and poetry. He completed a BA in literature from Holy Cross College (1962) and an MFA in literature and poetry at the University of Iowa (1964). In Iowa, he developed his ability to see any medium--in this case the printed page--as a space for the reader and the writer to explore. In the 1960s Acconci began using film and video to document performances,and later developed audio installations to accompany his videos and films. In the 1980s he moved on to architecture and founded the Acconci Studio, which employs a group of architects who plan structures and spaces for public use.