In his 1970 performance piece, Blindfolded Catching, Vito Acconci did just that. A year later with Claim, Acconci placed himself in the basement of a gallery armed with a lead pipe. A video monitor upstairs forewarned art patrons of the situation. A blindfolded Acconci would swing the pipe while issuing threatening statements when he heard footsteps approaching. In speaking about his work in relation to the arts, Acconci said,Vito Acconci's Claim
"Visual art, architectural models, (concert) music, books . . . all those situations where there’s a viewer, an audience, where there’s a separation between person and thing: something perfect can happen only where there’s visual distance. Which is why I resent the visual: the visual means you don’t touch it, the visual means somebody owns it and that somebody isn’t you."We live in interesting times, when guards get fired for interacting with interactive work. Before I had any intention of becoming an artist--or writing about art--I heard a lecture given by Vito Acconci at UCSB (in 1982) as part of their visiting artist program. My impression is that Acconci's performative work has been about personal space, and ways it can be impinged upon, threatened, or violated.
In my art, writing, and personal life, I've been fascinated by the ways folks encapsulate themselves in protective spheres, be they gated communities, automobiles, or conventional thinking shared by like-minded groups--be they religious, political, academic, or one of the many cliques of artistic identity.
In some ways my artistic path has followed the reverse of Acconci, moving from objects to gestures to writing. At the same time, I'd like to think I share an affinity, donning my blindfold, while swinging my metaphorical lead pipe, estranging myself from some in the process. My desire here has been to contradict claims of authority and ownership, violate the sacrosanct space between art, it's announced intentions, and the viewer. I also wanted to create a space to recreate and continue the best part of obtaining a degree in art--those conversations that take place outside and between classes.
Since my graduation, the number of visitors to this blog have grown to over five thousand a month. Close to two hundred folks (that I'm aware of) subscribe to posts though services like Google Reader or Networked Blogs on Facebook. I've come to realize that my readership will never reach those levels attained by folks who re-post tidbits of controversy, obits, and conventional opinions, but it was my hope that original content and the ability to leave comments would find a few appreciative readers. Having LITV acknowledged by LA Times art critic Christopher Knight, and reading your posted comments and emails have made LITV a worthwhile and rewarding endeavor.
Unfortunately, none of this helps to pay off those student loans or provide health care. Not only do social network sites, blogging services, and video and image-posting sites receive lots of original content (and therefore traffic) for free, but so do some print publications, by not paying their writers. The opportunities to make a living wage by typing about art are becoming extinct. This month I'll begin working full time in research psychology, and my posts will become more infrequent.
As a coda to this transition, I leave you with un peu Rimbaud:
One night I sat Beauty on my lap. And I found she was bitter, and I called her names.
I found weapons to use against justice.
I ran away. Poverty, hate, you witches, my treasure was left in your care.
I managed to wither all human hope inside me. I attacked like a wild animal, and strangled every joy.
I called for executioners, I wanted to die chewing on their gun butts. I called for diseases, so I could suffocate in sand, in blood.
Unhappiness was my god. I lay down in the mud, and dried off in the crime-infested air. I played the fool until I was really crazy.
And by spring I had the scary laugh of an idiot.
Now a while ago, when I was about to go Argh! for the last time, I thought I'd try to find the key to that lost celebration where -- maybe -- I could recover my appetite.
That key is Selfless Love. ( -- which goes to show you I was dreaming.)