TABLE OF CONTENTS

STAGED PRESENCE

Vito Acconci, Theme Song, 1973, still from a black-and-white video, 33 minutes.

The audience is like a dog. They can feel immediately that you are afraid, that you are insecure, that you’re not in the right state of mind—and they just leave. . . .

Marina Abramović

I think the twenty-first century will hopefully be more guided by “how” questions—how am I a product or how am I related to these people here? . . . And what is the ethics implied by this?

—Tino Sehgal

IN 1973, VITO ACCONCI CROONED about his desperate need for an audience. For Theme Song, the artist taped himself singing banal pop entreaties into a video camera, in close-up and prone on the floor, acknowledging all the while his failure to seduce the viewer amid the infinite regress of telepresence and absence: “I know I’m only kidding myself. . . . You’re not here.” This unsated desire—induced at the very moment that television was flooding domestic space in an early wave

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