This exhibition expands on the work’s themes via responses by Paul Chan, Sharon Hayes, Barbara Kruger, and Rirkrit Tiravanija, each of whose practices engage in various formal and conceptual dialogue with the installation.
Originally mounted at the Portland Center for Contemporary Arts in 1975, Voice of America incorporates sculpture, projected images, and sound to transform architectural space into a site of social critique. Two monumental wooden chairs sit in a darkened gallery, whose floor is latticed with rope. Images of the American landscape are projected across the floor while Acconci’s own lyrical rumination on our nation plays. As Acconci describes it, “One kind of American music drifts into another: America presented in a music lesson, a geography lesson: from Ozark fiddle to California harmonica to New Orleans piano… My voice is the voice of a mythical Mr. America talking to Mrs. America: we’re giving voice to an American dream... There is a voice calling out from the wilderness, jabs of voice…here’s the response from the children of America.”
Through the artist’s signature poetic satire, Acconci deconstructs the national myths of manifest destiny and the promise of boundless opportunity. Tackling American institutions and identities latent in the installation, Chan, Hayes, Kruger, and Tirvanija raise questions as to the political, economic, and social framework of the nation. Each exposes harsh truths of our American reality, including inequality, consumerism, our leadership, and oppression of marginalized groups. While celebrating the singular and influential legacy of Vito Acconci, this group exhibition includes other voices of the American experience at this precarious time when our founding ideals are in-flux and threatened.
Vito Acconci (1940-2017) was a pioneering artist, poet, and architect. The legacy of his influential conceptual work is still felt in the fields of performance, social practice, installation, and multimedia art. He has been the subject of numerous one-person exhibitions, including those at the Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Paul Chan is an artist, writer, and publisher of Badlands Unlimited. His animated films, performances and multimedia work centering on Western philosophers and outsider artists question the hierarchies of knowledge.
Sharon Hayes has used performance, video, and photography to grapple with the intimacy of activism and social justice. For this exhibition she returns to her seminal work The Lesbian to question unconscious gender bias implicit in our understanding of the environment and national identity.
Barbara Kruger’s graphic photo and text works challenge the myths of power implicit in image and language. Since the 1970s, she has exposed bitter truths of gender, politics, and inequality through her signature graphic style and pithy insight.
Rirkrit Tirvanija explores the social dynamics that define how people come together. Through both architectural and performative interventions, he breaks down the distinctions imposed by space to create moments of sharing and communal knowledge production.