A collection of early multimedia documentation and unique proposals, 1970 – 1983
1. Steps (Stepping-off Place). (New York). (Self-published). 1970. (28 x 21.6 cm). Three xerox typed flyers, each folded for mailing; printed recots only. Three original typed flyers for one of the earliest of Acconci performance pieces. Steps (Stepping-off Place) describes a series of repetitive actions which took take place at the artist’s apartment on Christopher Street in New York over a period of four separate months. The project is described on the flyer as such: “An 18-inch stool is set up in my apartment and used as a step. Each morning, during the designated months, i step up and down the stool at the rate of 30 steps a minute; each morning, the activity lasts as long as I can perform it without stopping … (The public can see the activity performed, in my apartment, any morning during the performance months. Whenever I cannot be home, I will attempt to perform the activity wherever I happen to be)”. The length of time Acconci manages this activity each day of the month is listed on two the flyers. The activity was performed in February, April, July and November of 1970. Present here are the flyers for all but the July performance. Three unique proposals for multimedia installations. (1975). Three sets of stapled sheets, rectos only. Three original proposals by Vito Acconci for installations that remained unrealised. The proposals, each with original drawings, were mailed by Acconci to Ira Licht, then curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, in April 1975. Licht was the organiser of the famous Bodyworks show in Chicago (March-April 1975) of which Acconci was a major participant. The three unique proposals each consist of a typed descriptive text (occasionally with corrections), stapled together with either one or two full-page sketches of the installation layout, executed in black-felt-tip pen. Shots in the Dark - “A structure 20 feet long, 3 feet wide, and the height of the existent room ceiling … the two walls are apainted black, inside and out; the entrance is covered by a black curtain. Inside, on the rear wall, is a slide projector on a shelf - it shoots at the viewer, projects an image on his body. Ther’s a tape Otherer, a speaker on the rear wall … the peaker addresses the viewer. My voice - the voice is crazy, like a voice in a fun house gone out of control” (this proposal has 2 original drawings attached) Snapshot - “A small black room or box … its entrance is covered with a black curtain - the room is free-standing, preferably near the middle of a room … Inside: a slide projector on the rear wall, facing the entrance - it shines on the viewer, on his face and chest - it puts him in the spotlight, on the spot. There’s a tape Otherer, the speaker on a side wall - like a whisper in the viewer’s ear. My voice - the voice is insinuating, cajoling, sneaky - it’s as if the viewer is having his snapshot taken, in a photo booth” (with single drawing attached) Beast Within (temporary title) - “A black box, 5 foot cube - free-standing, preferably near the center of the room. Entrance is covered with a black curtain. Inside the walls are white, but a green spotlight covers everything - there’s a cage-like structure composed of rope … the viewer could squeeze in, but with some difficulty. A tape Otherer, two speakers - one is in a louder voice, the other more whispering … My voice, changing tones: I admit to the viewer that I want to trap him - I want to trap him in memory, in history, in myth, in politics” (with single drawing attached). Original design sketches for Acconci’s installation at the Bodyworks exhibition, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago 1975. (1975). Notes (30 x 30 cm), folded; maquette (18 x 23 cm). Notes and sketches made by Acconci in pencil on a sheet of transparent crystal paper, providing design and installation instructions for his contribution to the Bodyworks show in Chicago. Includes notes on the construction of a panel facing a wall, and the use of pinned black paper and acetate sheets to cover the walls, with two small side and perspective view drawings. Accompanying the notes is a small-scale maquette for the interlocking acetate wall panels, here made from numbered and taped sections of crystal paper. Notes (30 x 30 cm), folded; maquette (18 x 23 cm). Was Here - original text proposal for a performance. (1975). (28 x 21.7 cm). Single sheet. Acconci’s initial notes on a proposed, yet apparently unrealised performance piece. Written in pencil on a single sheet of card, in his trademark all-capital letter script: “What I am structurally dealing with in this piece is making and breaking straight lines, similar to the planets lining up in 1975. There is almost always more than one thing going on at one time, seemingly unrelated to one another … at one point on the piece these three things are occurring: “ITT” is written in lights on the billboard, a voice on the tape Otherer is saying ‘I tee tee, I tee tee’, and on the video tape I’m seated making a gesture with a light bulb related to what catholics do when they finish praying.” [ The following six sets of performance documentation ( a – f ) were submitted by Acconci to Ira Licht in October 1976. Licht was then co-ordinator at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in Washington, D.C. Of note, Acconci was to successfully gain the first of his NEA Fellowships in 1976. ] a. Ballroom. November 1973. Sheets (28 x 21.6 cm); photos (20.6 x 25 cm). 15 sheets printed rectos only, including 2 loose and the remaining stapled together in two tranches + two original black-and-white photographs. The last public performance of Acconci, ‘Ballroom’, took place in November 1973, at the Galleria Schema in Florence: “The situation is that of a dance hall: five sets of white tables and chairs are arranged in a circel around the ‘dance floor’ - three spotlights shine down from the ceiling onto the floor. In The background, a loop tape: my voice humming Al Jolson’s ‘Anniversary Song’ - the way you would hum something absentmindedly, while going about your business. I’m walking, shuffling, slowly, around the dance floor, from spot to spot. I’m turned inward - that is, it’s more that I’m reflecting on something rather than putting on a show.” Presented here is the original printed documentation regarding Acconci’s ‘Ballroom’ performance. Consists of a photostat of Acconci’s original drawing of the installation, noting the positions of the spotlights and audio tape machines, as well as the artist’s own positions within the space; a single sheet with Acconci’s typed artist statement regarding the work (on Sonnabend Gallery headed paper); one 10-page transcript of the audio performance, and another 3-page description of the second part of the performance. Also present are two original black-and-white photographs of Acconci performing the work. Each photograph measures 10 x 8 inch, the first with four stills from the first half of the performance, the other with six stills from the second half of the performance. Each photograph with the Sonnabend Gallery title label pasted to verso. b. Scenes from This Side of the Camp. November 1973. Sheets (28 x 21.6 cm); photo (20.6 x 25 cm). 19 sheets printed rectos only, including 3 loose and the remaining stapled together in three groups + one original black-and-white photograph. ‘Scenes from This Side of the Camp’, took place between November 1973 and February 1974, at the Galleria Contemporanea in Rome. The installation consisted of built constructions, audiotapes and slide projections: “The situation is that of a guerilla war-camp. In the middle, there’s a circle of sand-bags; inside the circle the floor is covered with saw-dust - and a place to gather in … To the right, there are four sleeping bags in a niche covered with sand and dirt; a saw-horse lies on its side, a slide projector positioned on top of it, like artillery … at the circle of sand-bags, there’s loop tape: I’m talking, humming - I’m alone, lulling myself to sleep”. Presented here is the original printed documentation regarding Acconci’s ‘Scenes from This Side of the Camp’ performance. Consists of a photostat of Acconci’s original drawing of the installation; a single sheet with Acconci’s typed artist statement regarding the work (on Sonnabend Gallery headed paper); two transcripts of the audio-tapes, one 3 pages in length, the other 10 pages; and a four-page list of the slogans on the projected slides. Also present is one original black-and-white photograph of Acconci performing the work. The photograph measures 10 x 8 inch, and has five stills from the performance. The photograph with the Sonnabend Gallery title label pasted to verso. c. Command Performance. January 1974. (28 x 21.6 cm). 14 sheets printed rectos only, including 2 loose and 12 stapled together. In ‘Command Performance’, a video work installed at the 112 Greene Street space in New York in January 1974, Acconci attempted to replace himself with the viewer. In the performance he lied on his back with the camera gazing down on him and began an incantation, attempting to seduce the viewer to take his place in the spotlight: "You're there where I used to be. I don't have to be there anymore. You can do it for me now... Oh, you didn't expect this, did you baby? You're used to the way it was." As the tape progresses, Acconci, humming and singing to himself, is driven further and further into his fantasy. "Now you're in the spotlight. You'll do everything I want, my little puppet, my little dancing bear." In the installation of Command Performance, the audience was confronted with an empty stool in a spotlight; Acconci, exhorting the viewer to take his place, was present only on a video monitor. Presented here is the original printed documentation regarding ‘Command Performance’. Consists of a photostat of Acconci’s original drawing of the installation, noting the position of the camera, stool, spotlight and monitor; a single sheet with Acconci’s typed artist statement regarding the work; and an 11-page transcript of the videotape Othering. d. Intermediaries (Sound-Track for a Self-Image). May 1974. Sheets (28 x 21.6 cm). 30 sheets printed rectos only, including 2 loose and the remaining stapled together. ‘Intermediaries (Sound-Track for a Self-Image)’, was an Acconci Installation at the Galleria Forma, Genoa, May 1974. The installation consisted of built free-standing walls within a gallery space and corridor, furniture, audiotape, and projected slides: “The room is treated as a projection booth, blown up out of proportion. There are three slide projectors in corners, intersecting each other and shooting images onto the walls - the image is large, it stretches up onto the ceiling, flows down to the floor. there are images of myself; they seem posed, somewhat studied … my face is in close-up, caught from below, it’s too white, as if I’ve been trapped, or as if I’ve become a ghost. It’s the corridor, at the side, that provides a voice, a sound-track. There are four more free-standing white walls, extending diagonally from the actual walls, down the length of the corridor - they make a slace you have to weave around, go in and out of. The space is used, literally, as a track of sound: there’s a stereo tape Otherer - each speaker is placed on a wall which, in turn faces an empty wall, as if to buffer the sound”. Presented here is the original printed documentation regarding Acconci’s ‘Intermediaries’ installation. Consists of a photostat of Acconci’s original drawing of the installation; a single sheet with Acconci’s typed artist statement regarding the work; and a 27-page transcript of the audiotape Othering. e. Views of a Forced Landing. May-June 1974. Sheets (28 x 21.6 cm); photo (20.6 x 25 cm). 16 sheets printed rectos only, including 2 loose and the remaining stapled together + one original black-and-white photograph. ‘Views of a Forced Landing’, was Acconci’s contribution to the group exhibition Art now 74: a celebration of the American arts, held at the John. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., May 30 through June 16, 1974. The installation consisted of built wooden bunker with stairs and netting, spotlight, audiotape, and projected slides: “The situation is war. The wooden structure resembles an army bunker - eight feet high, eight feet long, eight feet wide … Entrance is around the back, a doorway two feet wide and less than six feet high. So you have to duck to go in, and immediately you’re faced with a choice: one step in, right in front of you, is a stairway that goes up to the top … if you choose not to go up, you can squeeze around the stairs, go under some overlapping sheets of mosquito netting - the feel here is vaguely tent-like, possible swamp-like - beneath the netting there’s a mat to fall into, lie on, crawl over into a corner. There’s a tape Otherer … it’s a kind of opera, as set of motifs - the sound switches from speaker to speaker, from low place to high place”. Presented here is the original printed documentation regarding Acconci’s ‘Views of a Forced Landing’ installation. Consists of a photostat of Acconci’s original drawing of the installation; a single sheet with Acconci’s typed artist statement regarding the work; and a 13-page transcript of the audiotape Othering. Also present is one original black-and-white photograph of the installation. The photograph measures 10 x 8 inch, and is divided into five stills. The photograph with the Sonnabend Gallery title label pasted to verso. f. Memory Box III: (Vanishing Point). July-August 1974. Sheets (28 x 21.6 cm); photo (20.6 x 25 cm). 20 sheets printed rectos only, including 2 loose and the remaining stapled together + one original black-and-white photograph. ‘Memory Box III: (Vanishing Point)’, was Acconci’s contribution to the group exhibition 'Project '74. Aspects of International Art in the Early 1970s' held at the Kunsthalle and Kölnischer Kunstverein in July/August of 1974 in Cologne. The exhibition was staged to mark the 150th anniversary of the Wallraff-Richartz-Museum. Acconci’s installation consisted of built wooden construction with audiotape, and projected slides: “A wedge-shaped wooden structure, 25 feet long, 7 feet by 7 feet at the front and tapering off to 2.5 feet at the back, on the floor. Inside there’s a funnelling toward the other end: a foam mattress lies at the back, squeezed in between the converging sides. There’s an audiotape, my vioce at the head of the mattress, speaking in the first person; this is a place meant for me - a place where I could drive myself under, make myself passive, receptive. The walls lose their soloidity: a slide projector, at the head of the mattress, projects slides up acorss the ceiling, changing quickly, stretching from back to front, washing over the sides”. Presented here is the original printed documentation regarding Acconci’s ‘Memory Box’ installation. Consists of a photostat of Acconci’s original drawing of the installation; a single sheet with Acconci’s typed artist statement regarding the work; and an 18-page transcript of the audiotape Othering. Also present is one original black-and-white photograph of the installation. The photograph measures 10 x 8 inch, and is divided into five stills. The photograph with the Sonnabend Gallery title label pasted to verso. (Proposal for): Umbrella City. 1982. (28 x 21.7 cm). 20 sheets printed rectos only, stapled together in two groups + one original signed typed letter. Vito Acconci’s xeroxed proposals for his Umbrella City installation at Documenta VII in the Friedericianum Museum, Kassel in 1982. Includes sheets of typed explanatory texts as well as xeroxed drawings by Acconci. Consists of a copy of the 13-page original proposal, as well as a 7-page revised proposal. The need for two proposals is explained by the presence of a covering letter from Acconci addressed to Ira Licht, then Director of the University of Miami's Lowe Art Museum. This original typed letter, dated May 26, 1982, is signed in pen by Acconci. In the letter Acconci describes the quandary he finds himself in: “For this year’s DOCUMENTA, I was scheduled to an existent piece indoors and a new piece outdoors. The budget for the outdoor piece was $10,000. The piece I proposed was UMBRELLA CITY, the plan of which I’ve enclosed with this letter. Recently I was informed by DOCUMENTA that they had gone over budget, there was no money available for the new piece. Then that staement was revised: there was $1500 available. In my desire to get the new piece done, I decided I would try it: do one of the houses of the Umbrella City or, more likely, do a revised and smaller version [sic] of the city itself (I’ve enclosed this plan also). but the problem is: it’s clear that the piece can’t be done well for $1500”. Acconci goes on to ask Mr Licht for $5000 to complete the project, explaining that, in return, the person giving the money would end up being the owner of the piece after the show. Acconci hopes Mr Licht would forward this request to Martin Margulies, a major Floridian art collector. It is not know if any monies were given, with Acconci himself noting it was “a very far-fetched proposition”. However, it is interestong to note that the smaller revised proposal was the one that was eventually constructed at Documenta. Biographical flyer for: Way Station I (Study Chamber). (Middlebury, VT). 1983. (35.5 21.7 cm). Single sheet, printed both sides, folded. Acconci, famed initially for his videos and performance pieces, was invited to Middlebury College, Vermont for the 1982-83 school year to teach a class titled “Art in Public Places.” He and his students jointly assembled “Way Station I (Study Chamber),” an intricate work roughly the size of a phone booth that was installed along a walkway linking dorms and academic buildings. The work sparked immense controversy on the college's campus, and was eventually set on fire and destroyed in 1985. This printed flyer, produced for the work’s installation, contains a list of Acconci’s solo exhibitoins, his wrtings, plus a short biographical essay by the artist himself.
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