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VITO ACCONCI (USA)

A poet of the New York school in the early- and mid-1960s, Vito Acconci moved toward performance, sound, and video work by the end of the decade. Acconci changed direction in order to "define [his] body in space, find a ground for [him]self, an alternate ground for the page ground [he] had as a poet." Acconci’s early performances—including Claim (1971) and Seedbed (1972)—were extremely controversial, transgressing assumed boundaries between public and private space, and between audience and performer. Positioning his own body as the simultaneous subject and object of the work, Acconci’s early video tapes took advantage of the medium’s self-reflexive potential in mediating his own and the viewer’s attention. Consistently exploring the dynamics of intimacy, trust, and power, the focus of Acconci’s projects gradually moved from his physical body toward the psychology of interpersonal transactions, and later, to the cultural and political implications of the performative space he set up for the camera.
(From Video Data Bank)
Theme song, 33:23, 1973

In Theme Song, Acconci uses video as close-up to establish a perversely intimate relation with the viewer, creating a personal space in which to talk directly to (and manipulate) the spectator. He is face to face with the viewer, his head close against the video screen, lying cozily on the floor. Acconci writes, "The scene is a living room — quiet, private night — the scene for a come-on — I can bring my legs around, wrapping myself around the viewer — I'm playing songs on a tape recorder — I follow the songs up, I'm building a relationship, I'm carrying it through." Smoking cigarettes, he begins a seductive monologue as he plays "theme songs" by the Doors, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Kris Kristofferson and others on a tape recorder. The songs are a starting point for his come-ons; the tenor of his monologues shifts with the lyrics. "Of course I can't see your face. I have no idea what your face looks like. You could be anybody out there, but there's gotta be somebody watching me. Somebody who wants to come in close to me ... Come on, I'm all alone ... I'll be honest with you, O.K. I mean you'll have to believe me if I'm really honest..." Theme Song, with its ironic mixture of openness and manipulation, is one of Acconci's most effective works. (From Electronic Arts Intermix)