Undertone, Vito Acconci, 1972, 09:15 (excerpted from 37:20), U.S., b&w, sound

This tape exemplifies Acconci's transgressive performance style. Influenced by writing on kinesics by Kurt Lewin, Erving Goffman, and Edward Hall, Acconci in the early '70s moved into an examination of the "performance areas" that exist between people. In Undertone, the artist seats himself at a table whose opposite end coincides with the bottom edge of the monitor, such that the viewer could imagine him/herself at the other end of the table. Acconci alternates between sitting with his hands folded on the table, confiding to the viewer: "I need to look you straight in the eye, to prove I'm not hiding anything..." and then placing his hands under the table and looking down, fantasizes: "I want to believe there's a girl here. She's touching me, rubbing my legs..." These gestures are repeated, exploring variations on what the performer "needs" and "wants" from both the assumed viewer's and his own sexual projections. Undertone sets up a relationship in which the viewer is implicated in the sexual projections of the performer. The conflation of public and private disclosure introduces issues of Acconci's vulnerability as a person and performer, as well as the vulnerability of the audience's attention.
"What interests me about video is its use as a kind of home companion, it's a place for close-up. I can be face-to-face with a viewer, I can be one point in a space that includes the viewer..."
—Vito Acconci (Liza Bear, 1974)

"Video as hot seat (this could be its use as part of a gallery installation, combined with other "furniture" in a "set"): video as resolve—a place for me to come into, out of the corner, show my face. You, the viewer, can use TV to survey what could have been my private activity—you have me on the spot [I might be trying to turn my face away from you]—I can lose face: I might have to save face."
—Vito Acconci (Schneider and Korot, 1976)