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Colin Marshall

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8. Vito Acconci's The Red Tapes, Part I (1976)
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Here it is: the final Vito Acconci piece of my Ubuweb Experimental Video Project. A near-two-and-a-half-hour triptych, it also appears to be something of a magnum opus. Perhaps it gave the last hurrah before Acconci jumped the good ship video for public architecture. While I can't say I'm super-saddened to reach the bottom of Ubuweb's Acconci archive -- there's some names down the list I'm rarin' to get to -- I'd be lying if I claimed the fellow hasn't grown on me, at least a little bit. Will I never hear this Bronx accent again?

Red Tapes part the first consists chiefly of word pictures delivered in Acconci's voice -- sometimes vivid ones indeed -- and still images that are only revealed as physical objects after a slight delay. A few beats after fading in on a landscape, Acconci's hand will flip the page it turns out to be printed on, or he'll walk through the frame, casting a flat shadow on what initially appeared to be a real background.

The imagery is mostly non-charged stuff: cars, towers, maps, gargoyles. (Could this be his fascination with the built environment emerging?) Acconci's words, however, when they move past absurdism or geographical free association along the lines of "New Mexico, New Jersey, Old South, Bleeding Kansas, Boston Massacre," are significantly more charged. One can't help but retain the segment when the artist, in silhouette, rambles about a fantasy where in he has sex with Kennedy's dead head, or the one where he discusses pulling out his own nose and lips.

There's some strangely compelling cinematic technique here. I like the periodic fades to gray -- expect to see gray faded to in some of my own future work, since I now find pure black and white creatively bankrupt fading shades -- and the final sequence where Acconci slaps down a series of cards bearing images of American historical figures while saying "boom, boom, boom" delivers a certain impact. I even laughed at the opening, when he becomes a blindfolded revolutionary but keeps having to cut, revise and restart his big statement to the nation. But what, if anything, all this adds up to presumably cannot be known until the end of part three.

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