Vito Acconci Interview with Daniele Bailit, Arte e Critica, March 2005

In this interview Acconci discusses the importance of sound in his work. He relates sound to architecture in terms of the idea that it creates a surrounding. He considers the oppressive potential of sound, where it may be apprehended as a kind of force, or pressure, that cannot so easily be shut out as something visual can be by averting our eyes. He talks about the influence of music in his work. In reference to his early 1970s performance pieces he states that it was the songs of Van Morrison and Neil Young that contributed to his idea of ‘finding one self’ through the single voice over a long duration. In installation pieces of the mid 70s it was the influence of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones that influenced his approach to sound, and during this period he would write down the phrases of their songs. At this stage he engaged sound in terms of the idea of a scream that could be directed towards a listener a kind of ‘burden’. Acconci states: ‘I wanted the person to be almost burdened by the sound so that they would want to get to a point where they would want a release point, they would have to do something … to make something happen.’ Acconci also distinguishes between the way he conceived of poetry as something to be read, requiring a visual relation to the words on the page and the oral-acoustic dimension of his later work. He considers written language as engaging the private act of reading, where spoken language ‘immediately brings a kind of community.’ He suggests that the oral ‘engages other people just as it’s engaging you, you’re not alone when you are in the middle of the oral’. There is also more control in the structuring of written language, where speech produces a structure that ‘is made up as you because as you’re speaking something, you don’t necessarily know what’s going to come next, what’s going to come later.’

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