Vito Acconci (1940-2017)
Hands Down/Side by Side
Four gelatin silver prints and chalk mounted on board
Mount (board): 29 7/8 × 39 15/16 in. (75.9 × 101.4 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee
Rights and Reproductions Information
© 2012 Vito Acconci / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Hands Down/Side by Side, one of Vito Acconci’s earliest works, records a simple performance, or “action”—standing and staring straight at a landscape setting. During the performance, Acconci shot two photographs of the landscape, once using each hand. The resulting images appear at the edges of Hands Down/Side by Side. The central photograph of Acconci’s midsection, together with the red text overlying the image, announces that the shots were not taken from eye level, but from the level of the artist’s lowered hands. In the white-lettered text, he describes the effect of restricting his hands: the camera “spreads me out at the sides, into land.” Through “extending” his vision to the parts of his body that lacks eyes, Acconci exposes the limitations of human perception. With only two eyes, set at the same height and oriented the same direction, our experience and memory of our body in space can only be partial, and we must rely on language, other people, and recording technology to understand and remember ourselves in the world.