Vito Acconci. Public Space in a private Time


Acconci beschäftigt sich mit der Formulierung und Gestaltung öffentlicher Situationen und der Thematik des Kunstobjektes als architektonischem Erfahrungsraum.

Vortrag im Rahmen des Symposiums Andere Orte. Öffentliche Räume und Kunst

Public Space in a private Time


A museum is a public place, but only for those who choose to be a museum public. A museum is a simulated public space; it's auto-directional and uni-functional, whereas a real public space is multi-directional and omni-functional. When you go to a railroad station, you go to catch a train; but, in the meantime, you might be browsing through a shop, or having a drink in a bar, or sitting in a lounge. When you go to a museum, on the other hand, all you are doing is going to the museum. In order to go to the museum, you have to be a museum-goer; you go to the museum in order to continue to be a museum-goer.
What do museum-goers want? What are you doing here anyway? Übersetzung


Life on the Edge: Marginality as the Center of Public Art
Inside the gallery/museum, the artist functions as the center of a particular system; once outside that system, the artist is lost between worlds ­p; the artist's position, in our culture, is marginal. The public artist can turn that marginality to his/her advantage. The public artist is forced, physically, off to the side; the public artist is asked to deal not with the building but with the sidewalk, not with the road but with the benches at the side of the road, not with the city but with the bridges from city to city. Outside and in between centers, the public artist is under cover; public art functions, literally, as a marginal note: it can comment on, and contradict, the main body of the text of a culture. Übersetzung


The Barriadas as a Model of Public Art
The barriada lives parasitically: it clings onto land that doesn't belong to it, its building-materials are left-overs from the father-city, its means of nourishment is to tie into services (electricity, heat, water) that are directed elsewhere.
The barriada lives in the father, in the place owned by the father, but on its own time, like a cancer. Übersetzung


It used to be, you could walk down the streets of a city and always know what time it was. There was a clock in every store; all you had to do was look through the store window as you passed by. But then times changed, and time went away. Well, it didn't go away exactly, but it certainly did go out: time went out like a virus and spread through all those bodies walking the streets. Time aimed straight not for the heart but for the arm, it fit around the wrist in the form of a watch: the quartz watch that was no trouble to make and no worry to wear, the cheap wristwatch you could buy for two or three dollars of-the-shelf and on-the-street. There was no need anymore for time to be installed on the street, in a bank or a liquor store; no need for time to be set in place, to be in the place where you happened by, when all the while you were on your own time, you wore time on your sleeve, you had time (almost) in the palm of your hand. Public time was dead; there wasn't time anymore for public space; public space was the next to go. Übersetzung


The innocent Bystander and the Anxiety of Choice
When a person enters a gallery/museum, that person announces himself/herself as an art-viewer; the art-viewer submits to the terms of the art arena, the art-viewer agrees to be a victim. Outside the gallery/museum, in a public place, there is no art-viewer; there are only passers-by, with different histories and varying biases. These people haven't asked for art; when they come across a public art-work, they see it not as art but simply as something else in their world, something that hadn't been there before. Public art, in order to exist in the world, agrees to certain social conventions, certain rules of peaceful co-existence; the public artist gives up the gallery artist's privilege of imposition. Using manners as a cover, public art can lie low; instead of attacking, public art insinuates. Übersetzung


Public space is made and not born. What's called public space in a city is produced by a government agency (in the form of a park) or by a private corporation (in the form of a plaza in front of an office building, or an atrium inside the building). What's produced is a product: it's bartered, by the corporation, in exchange for air rights, for the rights to build their building higher - it's granted, by the government agency, to people as a public benefit, as part of a welfare system. What's produced is a production: a spectacle that glorifies the corporation or the state. The space, then, is loaned to the public, bestowed on the public ­p; the people considered as an organized community, members of the state, potential consumers. Public space is a contract: between big and small, parent and child, institution an individual. The agreement is that public space belongs to them, and they in turn belong to the state. Übersetzung


Read the words public space literally, doggedly, dumbly. A space is public when: 1) its forms are public, its forms are publicly usable ­p; they can be sat on, walked over, crawled under, run through, sprawled across, lived in; 2) its meanings are public, its meanings are publicly accessible - the place is made up of conventions, images, signs, objects, that everyone in a particular culture knows automatically, knows by heart; 3) its effect is public, its effects are publicly instrumental - the place shapes both the public that uses it and the public agency that organizes it. A space is public when it either maintains the public order, or changes the public order. A space is public, on the one hand, when it functions as a public prison: its conventions, images, signs, objects become facts of life - they make a system of order in which everything is in its proper place, and the citizens follow suit. A space is public, on the other hand, when it functions as a public forum: its conventions, images, signs, objects are turned upside-down, or collided one with the other, or broken into bits, so that those conventions are de-stabilized (they're not solid facts anymore) and the power that grounds each convention is exposed (the space becomes an occasion for discussion, which might become an argument, which might become a revolution). Übersetzung


The public gathers in two kinds of spaces. The first is a space that is public, a place where the public gathers because it has a right to the place; the second is a space that is made public, a place where the public gathers precisely because it doesn't have the right - a place made public by force.
In the space that is public, the public whose space this is, has agreed to be a public; these are people in the form of the city, they are public when they act in the name of the city. They own the city only in quotes. The establishment of certain space in the city as public is a reminder, a warning, that the rest of the city isn't public. Übersetzung


The space that is made public began as its own opposite. This was a space that was never meant to be public at all: a royal space, or a presidential space, or a corporate space. This private and privileged space had inherent in it, from its beginning, the seeds of public space: the fact of its existence provoked desire, its privacy functioned as a taunt to the public that felt left out. Übersetzung


The building of space in the city has already been assigned to established disciplines: the vertical is allotted to architecture, the horizontal to landscape architecture, and the network of lines between and through them to engineering. The city has all the design it needs. For another category - public art - to have a function in the design of city spaces, art has to be brought back to one of its root meanings: cunning. Public art has to squeeze in and fit under and fall over what already exists in the city. Its mode of behavior is to perform operations - what appear to be unnecessary operations - upon the built environment: it adds to the vertical, subtracts from the horizontal, multiplies and divides the network of in-between lines. These operations are superfluous, they replicate what's already there and make it proliferate like a disease. The function of public art is to de-design. Übersetzung


Land ho!: the sailor's cry of discovery, from high up on the mast, as the ship approaches its goal after a life at sea. This is the beginning of the word landscape. In order for discovery to be possible, land has to be considered first as far away: land has to be far off so that it can be seen all at once, as a panorama. Land recedes and becomes landscape. Landscape equals landescape; the land escapes, out of your reach: the word landscape pulls the land away, or pushes you back away from the land. Übersetzung


Landfall: (def.) a sighting of land when at sea, the first sight of land after a voyage. The word landfall implies that, when land is come upon for the first time, it's the land that comes upon you; landfall is like a rainfall, a snowfall - the land comes down the way snow and rain come down. For the land to come down, it has to first rise up. As the ship approaches the shore, the shore bulges; the shore swells up, like a whale, over the ship - the land egulfs the ship and the sea. The word landscape guards against the word landfall. So that the land doesn't come up like thunder, it's kept in place and at a distance. Übersetzung


Notes on Making Shelter
Finding shelter is: living under an overhang, a rock. Finding shelter happens by chance: you're walking - it's raining suddenly - you walk faster, you look around, there's a rock, it was there all the time - you crawl under out of the rain. Finding shelter is an act of adaptation; you take your hat off to nature, no self is asserted in nature's face. A more advanced case of finding shelter is: digging out a hollow, a cave.
Making shelter (as we know it in western culture) is, by contrast, the act of taking over nature, placing something on top of nature. Making shelter is male. Übersetzung


Landscape is an attempt to keep land in place, to keep land in one piece, left it be fragmented and blown to bits by land mines - (def.) cavities in the earth that contain explosive charges, just below ground surface, and that are designed to go off from the weight of persons passing over them. On a landscape, you're in the world of science-fiction: passing over the earth in a space-ship, you have a vantage point from which to explore the earth, map the earth. On a land mine, you're in the world of detective-fiction, film noir: you don't have the luxury of looking around you and looking ahead, you have to keep looking at exactly where you are - one look to the side or to the front takes your mind off the earth at your feet, one look away and the earth takes over, the ground comes up from under you and blows you up off the ground. Übersetzung


To get past notions of landscape, go, literally, past the land, and down to the mines below the earth. The landscape is grounded on the pits and excavations below. Landscape architecture might be re-defined as architecture inside and under and through the land. Landscape architecture is the architecture that escapes the land, that hides and goes underground; if building on top of the land is addition (the act of adding structures to the land), then building under the land is subtraction (the act of taking land away, so that structures can be fit inside the land: the land is analyzed - separated into bits). Landscape architecture is the architecture of basements: the building of a base - slippage occurs from the base to basic instincts, and baser desires. Übersetzung


A view of the landscape can be replaced by a view through the landscape. The landscape, instead of being an object for the eyes, becomes an object for the body: instead of being an object of sight, it's an object for touch - an object of the body's insertion into the landscape. Übersetzung


The logical end of landscape is the end of landscape, the blank landscape, the landscape all white or all black; either all the details have been removed, or all possible details have been combined, all lands have been amalgamated. The person standing in front of this landscape has nothing to point to, or too much to point to all at once. The absence of pointing confuses here and there: the pointer is drawn into the act of pointing, the person is swallowed up into the projection and disappears into the perspective and into the future. Übersetzung


Time is fast, and space is slow. Space is an attempt to place time, and understand time; space is a need to have something to see and solid ground to stand on; space is a desire to follow the course of events, and to believe in cause and effect. The electronic age obliterates space, and overlaps places. You travel by airplane: you're in one place, then it's all white outside the window, and then - zap! - you're in another place, with nothing in between. Your're switching channels on a TV set, re-winding and fast-forwarding a videotape, instead of watching a movie from beginning to end. The electronic age establishes the primacy of time. The video game, versus the pinball machine. The push-button phone versus the rotary phone. The digital watch versus a clock whose hands travel around a field in which each individual second has a place. In a fast time, public space ­p; in the form of an actual place with boundaries ­p; is a slowing-down process, an attempt to stop time and go back in history and revert to an earlier age. Übersetzung


A space goes public when it disappears into the public: the space dissolves into neurons and waves and particles. The space becomes a network of parallel spaces ­p; physical space, projective space, topological space ­p; that mix into one intertwined space transmitted through telephone, television, computer. A public space now, in the world of flesh and blood, is only a dream: the dream of its own dissolution. The goal of public space is to dissolve into the nerves of the public; the goal of public space is for space and public to be one and the same. Übersetzung


Public space, in an electronic age, is space on the run. Public space is not space in the city but the city itself. Not nodes but circulation routes; not buildings and plazas, but roads and bridges. Public space is leaving home, and giving up all the comforts of the cluster-places that substitute for the home. Space on the run is life on the loose. There's no time to talk: there's no need for talk, since you have all the information you need on the radio you carry with you. There's no need for a person-to-person relationship, since you already have multiple relationships with voices on your radio, with images of persons in store windows and on billboards; there's no time to stop and have a relationship, which would be a denial of all those other bodies you're side-by-side with on the street, one different body after another, one body replacing another. There's no time and no need and no way to have deep sex: in a plangue year, in a time of AIDS, bodies mix while dressed in condoms and armored with vaginal shields ­p; the body takes its own housing with it wherever it goes, it doesn't come out of its shell. The electronic age and the age of AIDS become intermixed in an age of virus, whether that virus is information or disease. Each person becomes too infected, either with information or with disease, to be with another. You come to visit, not to stay. Übersetzung




© 1997 Vito Acconci. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

[Vito Acconci]



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