Collaboration

As we began the Every Acconci project at the end of 2011, a collaborative aspect with our performers emerged. We are producing videos not with actors or people acting simply as stand-ins for Acconci, but with mostly female artists based in Chicago whose work resonates with the specific Acconci videos we are remaking. These women become performers and collaborators in each video. Using Acconci’s original performances as texts and working within the parameters we set, they are free to interpret Acconci’s performances as they wish. Some stray far from the original works, though the seeds remain recognizable. The results are collaborative performances created for video in which highly personal aspects of each person’s work and personality are tangibly present.

With each video posted we include short biographies and links to websites for the artists/performers, who also have the option to provide a written response to the process of making the video or to the finished work. The heart of the project remains deliberately local, focusing on artworks in the collection of the Video Data Bank in Chicago and creating a visible network of diverse and incredibly talented artists based in or connected to Chicago, many of whom have personal and professional relationships. The result is a call and response form of conversation among our work, created not only through the blog, but through the performances and videos themselves.

Postmodern pastiche and historical distance

Vito Acconci’s canonical early video work engages hierarchical power struggles, sexuality, violence, control, and resistance. We are remaking every video by Acconci in the collection of the Video Data Bank, but with women and a HDSLR camera. These seem to be simple enough parameters to explore the intersections of performance and video and to ask: what would it mean to change the gender dynamic and remake his work forty years later?

The remake is not necessarily an homage to the original artist. The remake can allow us to measure historical distance. In a recent article concerning remakes, curator Karen Irvine at the Museum of Contemporary Photography stated, “They need to make some kind of commentary or question the canon of art history. When it’s done right, a remake engages the viewer because of the familiarity, then throws into question the history of representation.” Thinking of Acconci’s work and postmodern pastiche, David Clark wrote in his 1999 essay The Ghost of an Exquisite Corpse:

“The remake is rarefied form of popular culture’s general inclination to reproduce already existing cultural forms… [E]very reproduction, no matter how exact, always has a different meaning. The remake is measured by its relation to the already made, the already always present. The remake, therefore, becomes a gauge for measuring the historical shifts of meaning that have taken place. The post-modern critique of originality and the role of the author parallels the rise of the remake as an avant-garde strategy. The remake allows us to bracket out the content of the artwork and look at its distinguishing formal characteristics, in a way that is similar to Phenomenology’s project of bracketing out the subjective aspects of experience, leaving only the phenomena that exists outside the subjective. The remake removes the subjective aspects of the work and leaves the non-subjective, the phenomenological, as a gauge of the residues of history.”

We are not the first to remake Acconci, even with women performers. But we are willing to reinterpret Acconci’s work in a post-second wave, post-9/11, post-Obama, post-YouTube and Facebook, post-Occupy Wall Street world and find what historical distance emerges.