Tonight We Escape from New York

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Vito Acconci

1977

Collage, 151 x 118 x 5 cm.
Materials: b/w photo, crayon, paper, plexi on black aluminium

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. S0071).

"Ladder hanging from top to bottom of the Whitney Museum (rope ladder with metal rungs). The ladder forms a whole with the walls and landings - as if he has always been there - this is an escape route that we have forgotten, now it is here in front of our eyes. " - Vito Acconci

This two-dimensional work, framed behind glass, shows the concept of the installation at the Whitney Museum in New York with the same title. A drawing of a staircase in the cross section is made on black paper with white crayon. The right drawing shows the stairs of the four floors, the left drawing shows a rope ladder and four loudspeakers. We see on the black paper, also in white crayon, hand-written texts that describe the system as mentioned above. Furthermore, we see two pictures of a staircase with a rope ladder and a close-up of the rope ladder. Acconci creates an exhibition-context where there is 'officially' none. Not in the exhibition halls, but in the stairwell of the Whitney Museum in New York, he gives the audience a physical experience while one is moving up or down. During the stair climb, a voice, through the loudspeakers, says: YOU MADE IT: YOU'RE A NIGGER: HIGHER, HIGHER. Descending a voice says: WE MADE YOU: YOU'RE A BITCH, GET DOWN. The stairwell is "out of the way" but is simultaneously an in and exit. The political and social tension of the work remains an issue and raises many questions. The rope ladder highlights the fact that the staircase can be an escape route. Where would we escape from? Of a disaster such as a fire, a terrorist attack, the oppressive exhibition-context or the insulting words fired at the audience?

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