Undertone

1972 | 00:37:20 | United States | English | B&W | Mono | 4:3 | 1/2" open reel video

Collection: Early Video Art, Single Titles

Tags: Conceptual Art, Gender, Performance, Sexuality, Video History

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In this now infamous tape, exemplary of his early transgressive performance style, Acconci sits and relates a masturbatory fantasy about a girl rubbing his legs under the table. Carrying on a rambling dialogue that shifts back and forth between the camera/spectator and himself, Acconci sexualizes the implicit contract between performer and viewer—the viewer serving as a voyeur who makes the performance possible by watching and completing the scene, believing the fantasy. “In a visual style of address exactly equivalent to the presidential address, the face-to-face camera regards The Insignificant Man making the Outrageous Confession that is as likely as not to be an Incredible Lie. Who can escape the television image of Nixon?”

—David Antin, “Television: Video’s Frightful Parent,” Artforum (December 1975)

This title was in the original Castelli-Sonnabend video art collection.

An excerpt of this title (9:15) is also available on Surveying the First Decade: Volume 1.