As one of the exhibitions celebrating the institution’s 40th anniversary, MoMA PS1 presents a survey of early works by Vito Acconci, whose projects exemplify the energy and innovation of the decade that preceded the museum’s founding in 1976. Titled after one of his iconic pieces, VITO ACCONCI: WHERE WE ARE NOW (WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?), 1976 is a solo exhibition of early works by the unconventional writer, poet, performance, video and conceptual artist, and designer/architect.
After enrolling in the University of Iowa’s MFA writing program during the early 1960s, Acconci began writing poetry and editing the publication 0-9. In 1968 he started staging performances and creating sound and video works. The exhibition presents Acconci as he developed his radical and subversive explorations of the human condition, sexuality, voyeurism, identity and physicality up to the moment that MoMA PS1 was founded.
Drawing on documentary materials, photographs, and film and video footage, VITO ACCONCI: WHERE WE ARE NOW (WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?), 1976 traces Acconci’s early actions and performances, including FOLLOWING PIECE (1969), in which he followed passers-by on the street until they entered private spaces—SHADOW-PLAY (1970), in which he shadowboxed with a bright light shining behind him while moving in front of a wall—OPENINGS (1970), during which a camera focuses on Acconci’s stomach as he pulls out his body hair, the film ends when Acconci is hairless—SEEDBED (1972), during which he audibly masturbated for eight hours a day under a temporary floor at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York while visitors walked overhead—THE RED TAPES (1976-77), a three-part epic that merges video space with filmic space, evolving into complex amalgam of narrative strategies, photographic images, music and spoken language. The exhibition concludes with the reinstallation of Acconci’s WHERE WE ARE NOW (WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?). Acconci’s work is made up of a wooden plank surrounded by stools. The plank continues through an open window and becomes a diving board suspended over the traffic below.
Since his first solo show in 1969, Acconci (American, b. 1940) has participated in numerous solo exhibitions and has been the subject of retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1978, and 2006), and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (1980). Acconci’s achievements have been recognized with several awards, including several fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1976, 1980, 1983, and 1993), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1979), and American Academy in Rome (1987). He is also the recipient of two New York City Art Commission Awards for Excellence in Design (1999 and 2004) and was appointed to the National Academy (2013). Since the mid-80s through the present, Acconci has mixed with a design and architecture studio based in Brooklyn, New York.
VITO ACCONCI: WHERE WE ARE NOW (WHO ARE WE ANYWAY?), 1976 is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1, and Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art, with Margaret Aldredge, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1, Richard Wilson, Chief of Installation, MoMA PS1, and Vito and Maria Acconci.