Face Off

Repro © Werner Kaligofsky

Vito Acconci

Face Off, 1973

Video, black and white, sound, 32 min 57 sec


Artwork text

Face Off is an ironic collusion of private and public, of exposure and masking, a tense ritual wherein Acconci divulges and then censors his self-revelations. Acconci turns on a reel-to-reel audiotape recorder and bends down to the speaker to listen to it, his face barely visible in the frame. The audio is a recording of his own voice addressing himself and the viewer, recounting intimate details about his life. However, whenever the material becomes too personal, he tries to drown out his voice and prevent the viewer from hearing, yelling: "No, no, no, don't tell this, don't reveal this..." Reacting to his recorded voice, he becomes increasingly agitated as the tape proceeds. Acconci has stated that his work was intended to "dig into the past" as he tries to "face the facts," claiming, "I really want other people to find out these secrets because they can establish a kind of image for me." By preventing the viewer from hearing, of course, his "secrets" remain only implicit. As the double entendre of the title implies, he both invites and avoids a direct confrontation with the viewer. (Electronic Arts Intermix) Setting up a tape player, Acconci listens to his own recorded monologue of sexually intimate secrets and repeatedly tries to obscure these secrets by shouting over the tape. What Acconci demonstrates here is the paradoxical situation of the artist, confounded by two desires -- to reveal oneself for the sake of pleasing the audience, and the conflicting desire to protect one's ego. As viewers, we are intrigued and tantilized by the possible confession we never hear. In this way Acconci characteristically implicates the viewer in his performance; the viewer awaits and encourages the artist's sacrifice, revelling in the possibility of their selfexposure. (Video Data Bank, Chicago)