Synopsis by Brian Whitener
Vito Acconci's video works have been described as "remorseful and vividly antiseptic" -- none more so than his 1972 work Undertone. In it, Acconci sits at one end of a wooden table, the camera being fixed at the other. With Acconci facing the camera, it looks as if the viewer is sitting at the other end of the table, a perspective that brings us into a close relationship with Acconci. It is, then, not off-putting when Acconci beings to speak, alternating between addressing us and addressing himself, testing our desire to listen and stay with him. The topics of Acconci's addresses are obliquely sexual and this serves to reinforce as well as strain the intimacy with the viewer. He pushes, he pulls, he invites us in, only to turn us out of the piece. Undertone is a work that refuses certain categorization and in that way it's uniquely Acconci.