Students of the University of Pennsylvania discuss with artist Vito Acconci the implications of his unique approach to architecture, which utilizes instable and malleable circulation systems, and the underscored philosophy concerning architecture's dictation of the form of existence and daily life. This discussion took place at Philadelphia's Slought Foundation in 2008.
Vito Acconci in Conversation at Acconci Studio, New York features a conversation between the artist and architect Vito Acconci and undergraduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. During the 2007-2008 academic year, students in the Halpern-Rogath Seminar in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania explored Vito Acconci's engagement with the experience of power, understood through the activation of specific bounded zones. These have included the page, streets in New York, a basement, galleries, and public environments. Acconci's earliest forays into the realm of architecture in the 1980s marked a major shift in his work from an emphasis on the individual body (often his own) to the social body in an urban context. At the same time, the artist's focus on architecture, the built environment, and relevant social systems has emerged as a natural extension of his earlier interests in probing idiomatic language, the boundaries of the body, and the unstable delineations between private and public spaces. Recognizing the fact that architecture has the power to control the body and the rhythms of daily life, Acconci visualizes structures that perpetuate instability and the possibility of choice on the part of the user. The projects, which are collaborative undertakings with a team of designers and architects, focus on the creation of dynamic circulation systems that bend, twist, ooze, flow, bulge, and ripple across an existing landscape or a body. The course culminated in the exhibition Power Fields: Explorations in the Work of Vito Acconci at Slought Foundation, Philadelphia.
Vito Acconci (born 1940) currently lives and works in New York. His early work took the form of fiction and poetry; his last poems reduced words to indices of the writer's and reader's travel across the page. In the late 1960's and the early 1970's, his artworks used performance, photos, film and video as instruments of self-analysis and person-to-person relationships. His audio and video installations of the mid-1970's turned exhibition-spaces into community meeting-places, and his architectural games of the early 1980's made performative spaces for viewers. In the mid 1980's, his work crossed over into architecture, landscape, and industrial design, and in 1988 he started Acconci Studio, a theoretically-oriented design workshop. The studio treats architecture as an occasion for activity, making spaces fluid, changeable, and portable.