Encountering Vito Acconci : performing Conceptual Art circa 1970
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“Encountering Vito Acconci: Performing Conceptual Art circa 1970” reframes Vito Acconci’s familiar oeuvre through re-uniting it with the contexts that first gave it meaning to audiences. Over the three chapters of this study I establish that Acconci began “performing” within the anti-establishment context of Conceptual Art in 1969 and continued doing so until 1974, and that his performance-based activities, which revolved around audience interaction, related to concerns at the time in the artist’s community and beyond about the nature and importance of human connection. More specifically, I show that Acconci’s performance-based activities related to social sciences discourses at the time with which the artist among others were framing ideas about human connection: systems, encounters, and technology. In each of three chapters I analyze several of Acconci’s activities and associated photographs, texts, diagrams, videotapes, and films alongside elements that framed them when they were first encountered by audiences: exhibition titles, other artworks, catalogue texts, reviews, and exhibition-related ephemera from the time, but also articles and books that the artist and others involved in Conceptual Art. Through examining Acconci’s practice within its original context I offer a new, more expansive perspective on his work. I also illuminate an important period in American art history, by showing that performance-based Conceptual Art was part of discourse in the United States in the social sciences and beyond about the importance of human connection in shaping experience and therefore meaning, including of art.