Artwork Detail

American, 1940–2017
Black-and-white video with sound
17:0 min.
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 2013
WU 2013.0003.0001
Vito Acconci / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
At the end of the 1960s, Vito Acconci began a series of conceptual, performance-based video works that test his own physical and psychological limits as well as those of others. Acconci used video as a vehicle for self-analysis and interpersonal relationships, exploiting both the inherent immediacy and mediation of the technology. Documenting a live performance at New York University, Pryings is at once a graphic exploration of interaction between genders and a study in control, violation, and resistance. The camera focuses tightly on his partner Kathy Dillon’s face as the artist tries to pry open her closed eyes, an action that in its violence and gendered power imbalance takes on overtones of rape. Dillon’s goal was to keep her eyes closed for the duration of the performance, attempting to thwart Acconci by protecting her face and fighting to escape from his grasp. This video exemplifies the artist’s probing of self/other relations, as well as his intense examination of the body and space as kinds of force fields, which allow systems of power to be exercised and tested. [Permanent collection label, 2014]