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Vito Acconci

Hands Down/Side by Side

1969

Artist

Vito Acconci (1940-)

Title

Hands Down/Side by Side

Date

1969

Medium

Four gelatin silver prints and chalk mounted on board

Dimensions

Mount (board): 29 7/8 × 39 15/16 in. (75.9 × 101.4 cm)

Edition information

Unique

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Photography Committee

Accession number

92.12a-d

Object Label

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.

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