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Theme Song

Then, Not Nauman: Conceptualists of the Early Seventies

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
7:30 p.m. Am I Making Art

Works by Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson

Zero-degree art begins with the body, then leaps to language. In an early work by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Mouth to Mouth, the artist's maw appears in a swamp of video noise as she utters simple Korean vowels. The medium serves as a primordial mire from which the utterance ascends only to recede again. In his deadpan study of gesture, John Baldessari repositions his body in an endless array of postures while uttering "I am making art." Ironically, the act of indexing his movements catapults them into objecthood. In Theme Song, Vito Acconci sets out to seduce the viewer, using direct address as a perverse tool of persuasion. Pushed up against the screen of the monitor, his plaintive words lulling in their soft rhythms, Acconci offers his "come one," the false intimacy of televisual space. Finally, in the rediscovered work East Coast, West Coast, Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson stage a sardonic bi-coastal conversation about the art of the late 1960s. Holt takes on the stance of an East Coast intellectual while Smithson plays a West Coast creature, motivated by instinct and emotion.

—Steve Seid

Mouth to Mouth (Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, 1975, 8 mins, B&W, Beta SP, PFA Collection). I Am Making Art (John Baldessari, 1971, 19 mins, B&W, Mini-DV, From Video Data Bank). Theme Song (Vito Acconci, 1973, 33 mins, B&W, Mini-DV, From VDB). East Coast, West Coast (Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson, 1969, 22 mins, B&W, Mini-DV, From Electronic Arts Intermix)

• (Total running time: 82 mins, U.S.)