Two to Tango


“Come into the dark, we can’t see anything and we have never been to Antarctica,” invites Vito Acconci in his “Antarctica of the Mind,” (2004) a building proposal for the Halley II Research Station in Antarctica. Though Acconci’s proposal, which functions more as a poem than a traditional plan, was never realized, in his first show at New York’s Maccarone, My Flesh to Your Bare Bones: A Duet With Vito Acconci, American artist Oscar Tuazon attempted to build the imagined Antarctic research station.





Tuazon created a series of structures inspired by Acconci’s text that unfold as a series of conversations between sculpture and sound. The artist calls it a duet with his predecessor. In the gallery’s main space, the most literal demonstration of the show’s multiple duets came via two speakers hung on opposing columns, each playing a recording of Acconci reading “Antarctica…” as Tuazon spoke an original response. Acconci’s gruff voice combines with Tuazon’s softer expression; the piece is intended as a guide to the show. The voices alternated between syncopation and confusion. Amidst the distinct voices, one piece of glass, framed by steel and suspended from the gallery ceiling by cable and clamps, dangled directly above a counterpart, another piece of glass cut to the same size but cracked and prostrate. The meeting of the two glass sheets was charged with tension, as if the forms were challenging one another.

Formally, Tuazon’s activations of “Antarctica…” seem to inherit the concerns of Acconci’s minimalist colleagues. Via email, Tuazon disagreed: “Of course from a formal perspective you can say that some of my work looks like minimalism, but that just comes from working with certain materials-steel, glass, plexiglass – their raw, off-the-shelf state.” Besides his use of production materials associated with the minimalist vocabulary, he is “much closer to architectural questions than to the phenomenological questions of minimalism,” and that “my sculptural work engages with the question of function, what an object does.” Tuazon’s exposure to architectural discourse started while studying art at Cooper Union, and developed while working at Acconci Studio.

Tuazon distances distanced himself from minimalism in terms of the individual, rather than the general, subjectivity of his viewer: “I’m working in the first person.  I mean it in the way that a poet speaks in the first person—that the final referent of the work isn’t an idea, but a person, a voice, a physical body. Not to say that the work is about me, but its by me.” Tuazon’s work can thus be read as a language of relics and a physical, even inhabitable poem: “Vito was trying to imagine a structure there, and I wanted to occupy that structure.  I wanted to live there,” to “speak a world into existence,” using an imposing, but decidedly personal language.

In another section of the large gallery, a broken piece of concrete stood crumbling at one end, its parts diffusing into the polished concrete of the gallery floor. Above, a piece of stretched canvas distended by water damage, framed with steel and suspended from the ceiling with clamps.  The swollen, suspended canvas interpreted a passage from Acconci—”Let’s build a building that is a balloon… It’s a balloon within a balloon.” The interface between the damaged canvas hanging above and the crumbling concrete, was a crude, bloated, but fragile monument to building materials. Tuazon confirmed that he wanted there to be “a physicality to the pieces,” and that he “stressed the materials to the point where they bend, bulge, distort to the breaking point,” that he is “interested in the kind of physical sensations that objects are capable of producing.”