A woman kisses Acconci's body, covering him in red lipstick traces. Acconci then rubs his body against another man (Dennis Oppenheim), transferring the stains onto him.
Super-8 camera held out before him as shield and surrogate, Acconci pushes through a landscape of dense reeds and overgrowth. Break-Through records this search for a pause or clearing in what, for the viewer, amounts to an abstracted and scarcely differentiated visual field.
The screen is empty: the artist stands off-screen — he breathes in and out, his stomach moving into and out of the frame.
The remains of a Gordon Matta-Clark piece in the basement of 112 Greene Street: a closet-like space with a window — viewers look in on their way through the gallery's ongoing exhibition. The walls are covered with mirrors. The artist, naked from the waist up, is alone with three roosters; he tries to gather the roosters up into himself, covering the roosters over with his body — the roosters scratch and claw and try to get away — gradually they become used to him, his body becomes their home.
In these three exercises, Acconci plays with trans-gender illusions, manipulating and altering his own body parts to suggest sexual transformations. For example, he burns the hair from his chest with a candle, then attempts to create the illusion of having female breasts.
Corrections is Acconci's first single-channel video. Back to the camera, with only his head and bare shoulders visible, Acconci lights a match and brings it around to the nape of his neck. The lights dim as the flame nears his body hair, which briefly flares in the darkness, at which point Acconci shakes out the match. This action is repeated for the duration of the piece. Corrections introduces themes that typify Acconci's body-based performance work of the 1970's.
Standing alone among beach dunes, Acconci begins to kick at the sand below him. Over the course of the film's ten minutes, this repeated action displaces sand at a steady rate: as the artist sinks lower into the hole he creates, the mound of sand before him grows in correspondence.
The camera frames the artist's head. Two hands, palms pressed together, aim at the artist's face and hit the wall right behind him. His eyes close instinctively. Trying to keep his eyes open, he slowly gains, and then loses again, control of his eye movements.
In this exercise in nonverbal communication, Acconci explores facial expressions, and their psychological resonance, as a mode of performance narrative.
A view of a brick wall: the artist enters and walks from one side to the other, back and forth, row after row.
The artist, covered in flour, tries to blow the flour off his skin.
The artist, sitting naked, takes water from a pot into his mouth and gargles; he spits it out onto his stomach and groin, transferring the water from one "container" (the pot) to another (his body).
In another exploration of nonverbal communication, the camera moves back and forth, each time catching one of Acconci's hands in an expressive gesture. The result is a kind of narrative or dialogue of gesture.
In this feature-length silent film, Acconci uses hand-written title cards to present an "interior monologue" about speaking, language, and silence. The written text alternates with images of Acconci, alone in the interior of an urban loft or on a rooftop, with the skyline of downtown New York as a backdrop. This metaphorical landscape of isolation resonates in the text, in which Acconci directly addresses several different women by name, alluding to their relationships with him. The women's identities seem mutable; they are consigned to silence, others without a voice. Given the unstable nature of subjectivity in his work, Acconci ultimately appears to be "speaking" to himself.
Acconci's body-based performances are often willfully provocative in their testing of physical limits and controlled actions. Here, as the camera frames Acconci's stomach in close up, he painstakingly pulls out each hair from the skin around his navel.
This is one of several exercises that explore the notion of extreme concentration. Blindfolded, Acconci attempts to intuite the position of another person's hands over his body.
Acconci caresses his torso, then crushes cockroaches into his stomach and rubs them into his skin.
Documentation of an evening of three simultaneous performances (Terry Fox, Dennis Oppenheim, Vito Acconci), in January 1971. In each alcove a light bulb hangs from the ceiling above a canvas that covers the ground. In Acconci's alcove, a clock is hung on the back wall; staring at the second hand, the artist repeats its movement around the light bulb.
Acconci spars with his close-up image in a mirror. He then breaks the mirror, destroying his image.
In these early film exercises, Acconci exhibits an almost childlike vulnerability that is at once comic and oddly affecting. In Blindfold Catching, a blindfolded Acconci reacts, flinching and lunging, as rubber balls are repeatedly thrown at him from off-screen. In Soap & Eyes, he tries to keep his eyes open after dousing his face with soapsuds, resulting in a tragicomic clown face. In Hand and Mouth, he repeatedly forces his fist into his mouth until he gags.
In Looking Around Piece, the performer stands before a fixed camera, which records his eye and head movements as he follows a moving object outside the frame. In Starting Piece, the performer walks down a hill, gradually entering the frame. In Catching Up, the performer and cameraman walk side by side; the performer tries to remain the frame.
In one of his earliest films, Acconci performs a series of actions — running in a circle, jumping, pushing another man — in which the physical limits of the action refer to the boundaries of the film frame itself.
In this three-part exercise, Acconci explores the dynamics of the artist's interaction with or manipulation of an other. Each study involves a form of mirroring.
A corridor of closet spaces in an industrial warehouse at the Städisches Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach, Germany. In one of these closets, the artist crouches, naked, on a floor of toys and fabrics and plastics, detritus from a child's room. He talks to his penis, addressing it as another person; he dresses his penis in doll's clothes.
In Scene Steal, Acconci, fully clothed, tries to shield a nude woman from the camera. In Container, he wraps his nude body around a cat as if to totally enclose it.
Acconci oftens performs controlled actions as if he had entered into a contractual agreement to test his physical limitations. In Grass/Mouth, Acconci ingests grass until he chokes; in Hair/Mouth, he fills his mouth with the hair from a woman's head.
Acconci walks in a circle around a cat, attempting to constantly keep the animal enclosed.