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This is a journal I keep to record all things I do within the realm of filmmaking.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An Approach to Centers, by Jared Caldwell

In Kate Linker's Vito Acconci, Linker chronicles Acconci's early video works in the 1970's as “the notion of penetration and elision of boundaries”. Works such as Applications, Security Zone, and Untitled Piece for Pier 17 all deal with boundaries, how those boundaries are broken, who breaks them, and who fulfills the roles of the aggressor and the person in power versus the vulnerable person relinquishing power. One such work dealing with boundaries was Acconci's video work Centers.

At first glance, Centers seems to be quite simple. The footage shows a man from the chest up, with his finger pointing directly into the camera. Though this seems to be a simple action, there is significance in this motion. When taping this work, Acconci sets up a feedback system where he can see himself being recorded on camera. He then points to the monitor he sees his image on, which in turn points back at him and continues to record. He proceeds to point for twenty minutes.

Linker provides an excerpt quoting Acconci, describing his experience of the film:
Pointing at my own image on the video monitor...I keep narrowing my focus...The result (the TV image) turns the activity around: a pointing away from myself at an outside viewer—I end up widening my focus onto passing viewers. (I'm looking straight out by looking straight in).

In connection with the notion of penetration, Acconci is penetrating and breaking the boundaries of the viewer. Acconci is justified in performing this act because not only is he penetrating the space of the viewer, he is breaking his own boundaries as well. To quote Matthew 7:5, “...first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” Acconci's actions are not hypocritical, because he is sharing with the viewer in this experience.

After a few minutes into the film, Acconci's arm starts to tire. His arm begins to waver, and his finger begins to move, forcing him to struggle with fatigue in his arm throughout the remainder of the film. Even though Acconci is breaking boundaries, he cannot maintain this form of control. One could draw similarities between Centers and the iconic Uncle Sam poster, pointing the finger to single out the viewer, unable to maintain control forever. It could also be said that the forces of gravity are the only elements in play here, but by judging the content with the aesthetics of the film, the length of time that Acconci struggles against gravity shows that the struggle was an intentional one to satisfy the the performance in the film.

Vito Acconci and his body of work is made up largely of performance art. These performances and experiments were able to be captured visually due to the introduction of video technology during this period. Though much more tame than other works dealing with other issues such as sexuality during this period, Centers is one of his many famous video-performance works, dealing both inward and outward with issues of control, vulnerability, and boundaries.

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