Brandon LaBelle - Learning from Seedbed
  Year :   2003
  Location :   USA
  Worktype :   Installation
  Materials:   -
  Info :   Standard Gallery Chicago, IL April 26 - June 14

  Work Details  
  “Already with Seedbed (1972), I was part of the floor; a viewer who entered that room stepped into my power field — they came into my house.” (Vito Acconci) Vito Acconci’s 1972 project “Seedbed” performed the body by housing it under a constructed wooden ramp. Exhibited at Sonnabend, the ramp rose up from the gallery floor to end against a side wall, running approximately 22 feet wide, 16 feet long, and 2 feet high. Acconci occupied the space under the ramp three days every week, for a period of 8 hours, masturbating and speaking through a microphone connected to a speaker positioned inside the gallery space. As Acconci has stated, the work was an attempt to establish an “intimate” connection with those who visited the gallery, through fantasizing sexual relation — Acconci would speak to visitors as if they were lovers. Acconcis “Seedbed” operates as a performative work not only through its use of the body, but also through its reliance upon the ramp — the ramp could be said to make possible the fantasized moment of intimacy through its very operation of concealing Acconci the masturbator. Architecturally, the ramp creates a hidden space, embedded within the gallery as an anomaly, and yet acting as an “amplifier” for the desires of an individual body seeking its social partner. In this regard, the ramp suggests an “architectural performance” in which the negative space under the ramp allows something to occur within the gallery space.Learning from Seedbed restages Acconci’s work by articulating the ramp as the main character. The ramp is replayed, though inverted, so rather than conceal a hidden body (and its desires) this ramp opens out onto the space of the gallery, inviting visitors to enter its interior, as a social space.The ramp was constructed out of wood, measuring 16 long x 12 wide x 4 high. In addition, four contact microphones were mounted onto the ramp, and connected to two speakers placed in the gallery space. The volume was turned up to such a degree that a steady feedback hum was produced; the feedback could be modulated, played, and toyed with by walking on the ramp, tapping on it, etc. In this regard, the ramp functioned as a resonant instrument, performed by visitors.To enact “Seedbed” as an architectural “other” whose presence makes possible the articulation of interior wishes, the ramp is envisaged as an idiosyncratic form, an amplifier of noise, against the Modernist tendency of straight lines, cool surfaces, and geometric purity, exemplified in Mies van der Rohe. In contrast, the ramp diagonally cuts across and splits space, marking an uneven ground, a blob or jag on surfaces. Such unevenness as Acconci suggests is also the site of the body in its most libidinal and performative position — thus, the ramp can be understood as architecture’s own moment of fantasy, driven by a desire to embrace those who occupy its spatial potential.In addition to the ramp, a performative action was organized and staged in the city of Chicago, documented on video and presented in the gallery space on a small monitor. The performance consisted of working with a group of participants who were instructed to occupy the crack of various buildings by lieing down in the seam between the building and the street, thereby adopting the position Acconci occupied in the original Seedbed work.