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Colin Marshall

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2. Vito Acconci's Pryings (1971)
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This one's more amusing, or at least more so than the previous Acconci pieces I've covered. It's retains the signature sexual creep-out factor, sure, but it plays with it in a way that I could almost, if I squint, find parodic. People will disagree about whether this sort of thing can sustain 33 minutes, but I chuckled.

The video fades in to the extreme close-up mentioned above, although that description fails to mention that, in it, Acconci assumes a pose most often associated with teenage girls who yammer ceaselessly into see-through phones (which, yes, wouldn't be invented for like a decade) on their bedroom floors. He sprawls toward the camera, puffing on a cigarette and leering into the lens like some sort of amorous troll doll.

I can't help but feel that, were the Acconci of 1973 here today, posting these videos on Youtube, he'd become a cult sensation. Controversy would swirl among his thousands of subscribers: is this guy serious? Does he think his hamfisted, circling, pick-up talk is erotic, or is it a satire of come-upstairs-and-see-my-etchings artist's eroticism? Ambiguity breeds fandom, after all -- just ask J.K. Rowling.

Additionally, Acconci's tape player, hidden just out of frame but rarely unheard, provides that outsider-musician sensibility that's proven oh so viral for the likes of the Back Dorm Boys to Tay Zonday. He puts on a new pop song every so often and performs something of a sprechstimme to each, spouting stream-of-consciousness "lyrics" that take every angle to get his unseen interlocutor into bed: "I just need a body next to me. That's all I need." "We're both adults. I need it. You need it." "I don't have to know what you look like -- I'll take anything I can get." "I'm ready to take you any time, any time you want." "What can convince you?" "Look how I can wrap myself around you!" "You're starting to get a little afraid of me, right?"

I get the impression that all the songs Acconci employs as backing tracks are super-popular, but the only one I can readily name is The Doors' "People Are Strange" (and I had to look even that up on The Wikipedia to get its title right). In this and other ways, Theme Song is actually something of a time capsule. From all I've pieced together about the early 70s, I imagine enduring the extended, scattershot come-ons of a randy, smoking performance artist as he continually fiddles with the background music was an all too common scenario.

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