Bailey's Tumblings

Homme libre, toujours tu chériras la mer! 

And so I’ve hit my first snag…

I’ve decided to write a blog post about every artist listed on a Art Basel Miami Beach Advertisement from the November 6, 2009 edition of the New York Times. That’s a full spread of the page – approximately 472 artists. I begin this quest for aesthetic enlightenment with the hope that, by then end of it all, my writing will resemble that of Jerry Saltz, who effortlessly explores the contemporary and modern art scenes with wit and insight (and certainly without pretension) every week for New York Magazine.

For now, however, I am at artist number one: Vito Acconci. This Vito, an often grotesque provocateur, stopped me in my blogging tracks.

From a brief bit of online research, I quickly learned that Vito Acconci is widely known for his performance art – a discipline I’ve always struggled with. While later in life he focused on architecture and earlier in life he worked on paper, this “Godfather of Transgression” earned his notoriety for some wildly provocative and unsettling performance pieces he complete mid-career. I can’t bring myself to discuss some of his grosser stuff, so here’s an example of one of Acconci’s more harmless works that nonetheless builds unease in us all:


“Back the F*** up man!”

Was that not your first reaction? Acconci’s own open mouth (complete with his jack-o-lanterned, malnourished teeth) serves as the star of this film for an entire 9 minutes. Through the rasping, choking on air and uncomfortably dry mouth, we struggle to understand what the hell Acconci is saying. Every one of our senses screams to us “This is unpleasant! Unpleasant!” but the point of Acconci’s work is to ask why do we feel this way? What makes this scene so cringe-worthy? Clearly Acconci is struggling to speak, but it’s by no means a horrifying thing to watch. It’s just uncomfortable and unpleasant. Socially unacceptable acts that generated these sorts of feelings were explored in much of Vito Acconci’s art in the 1970s.

One final question: did you watch the tape all the way through? It’s damn hard to. While I appreciate the concept, pieces like this makes me glad that I wasn’t an art critic in the 1970s and 1980s.

  1. baileye posted this