Vito Acconci

By: Alix Lambert
January 24, 2013

PHOTO CREDIT: Alix Lambert

VITO ACCONCI (born 1940) came to prominence as a poet in the 1960s and then as a performance artist in the 1970s. In 1972 his piece Seedbed, consisted of him hidden beneath a false floor at Sonnabend Gallery, masturbating.

“When I thought of myself as a writer in the 1960s, I questioned what made me go from the left to the right margin, from one page to another. As I thought of the space I was also thinking about time. Then I thought: ‘Why am I limiting myself to a piece of paper when there’s a world out there?’ I focused on performance in the early 1970s because the common language of the time was ‘finding oneself.’”

I moved to New York when I was seventeen to go to School of Visual Arts. When Acconci came to lecture, I asked him if I could photograph him. I spent an entire day at his Brooklyn studio, asking him to do things I was sure he would refuse. He never refused. I asked him to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes at once. I asked him if I could bury him under his collection of books. He cooked me spaghetti. Acconci’s absorption of the world around him and expression of what he absorbs in his gesture, his wit, his sculpture, his being, have contributed to my own development as an artist, and to the work of so many artists who have adopted his way of thinking not just about art, but about who we are.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Robert Motherwell, John Romita, and Michael Chapman.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).