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two Acconci ......................................................................................................... ‘‘public space is wishful thinking.’’ O f the four artists examined in this book, Acconci is the only one with any avowed interest in psychology, and his is the work that has been discussed at most length in terms of the construction of subjectivity. Much of this discussion has been productive, nonetheless the psychology that Acconci was interested in, for instance the work of Erving Go√man and Kurt Lewin, can be classified as social psychology: while he was doing performance art, Acconci was certainly dealing with the relations between external conditions and subjectivity. But emphasis needs to be placed on subjectivity as an e√ect of those conditions, as well as on the ways in which those relations are not transparent, so that subjectivity exceeds its conditions. Chief among these conditions, in Acconci’s work, were the categories of public and private. Acconci repeatedly and relentlessly undid the opposition between these categories, or conditions. As such, the reimagining of the audience of Acconci’s performance work saw the continual undermining of any stable position, as if this transformation were permanently in process. Seedbed, for instance, posed the emergence of subjectivity as a public e√ect over the unstable ground of a space that had ceased, by virtue of Acconci’s intervention, to be comfortably distinguishable as either public or private. Typically, subjective interiority is mapped onto the private realm: the subject formed in private goes out into the public to act. This is a model, as political philosopher Carol Pateman argues, whichassumesthatpublicactswillilluminatetheprivaterealm,andin fact bestow meaning upon it. Public legitimates private. Historically, this has been a gendered model, one that associates men with the public realm and women with the private, so that women’s very existence , in the terms of the model, and specifically their labor, is illuminated , given meaning and value, in relation to the public activities of (previous page) ..... Vito Acconci, Following Piece, 1969. ∫ Acconci Studio. Photo: Betsy Jackson 55 ............ a c c o n c i men. In relation to this, in The Sexual Contract, Pateman observes that, forinstance,‘‘a(house)wiferemainsintheprivatedomesticsphere,but the unequal relations of domestic life are ‘naturally so’ and thus do not detract from the universal equality of the public world.’’∞ ‘‘The public sphere,’’ in other words, ‘‘is always assumed to throw light onto the private sphere, rather than vice versa,’’ whereas, ‘‘on the contrary, an understanding of modern patriarchy requires that the employment contract is illuminated by the structure of domestic relations.’’≤ Similarly , philosopher Moira Gatens argues that the public sphere has developed ‘‘in a manner which assumes that its occupants have a male body. Specifically, it is a sphere that does not concern itself with reproduction but with production. It does not concern itself with (private) domestic labour but with (social) wage-labour.’’≥ Elsewhere, Gatens also argues that the ‘‘di≈culty of disentangling women’s subjectivity from the private sphere—even conceptually—can be accounted for by this intricate and extensive cross-referencing of the private sphere withthebody,passionsandnature.’’∂ Acconci,however,maybeseento disturb both the usual channels of legitimation and this system of cross-referencing, to the extent that he introduces his own, male, body, into public realms, as desiring, unstable, vulnerable, etc. In fact one might point to repeated instances of self-abjection in Acconci’s work, which speak to the recognition of limitations in conceptions of publicness. Not only in the classic instance of Seedbed, but in much of his performance work, Acconci shuttled between public and private in such a way as to call into question conventional circuits for the legitimation of artistic subjectivity. And if the status of the artist was uncertain in Acconci’s post-minimal realm, this went to the equally unclear role of the audience: by tying his investigations of public/ private relations to processes of legitimation—most pointedly, in Claim—Acconci demonstrated (even hypostatized) the paralysis of an audience that he could not redefine as a public, however desirable that might have been. Between 1969 and 1973, Acconci repeatedly staged the interpenetration of public and private, characteristically by collapsing, or doubling , the supposedly public or private functions of di√erent spaces. This is especially clear in a trio of works from 1970, Room Piece, Step 56 ............ n o i n n o c e n t b y s t a n d e r s Piece, and Service Area. Room Piece, for instance, took place over three weekends in January 1970: ‘‘Each weekend, the...


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