cover image Language to Cover a Page: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci

Language to Cover a Page: The Early Writings of Vito Acconci

Vito Acconci, ; edited by Craig Dworkin. . MIT, $34.95 (411pp) ISBN 978-0-262-01224-9

Acconci has turned out to be one of the most stylistically diverse artists to come out of the 1960s conceptual movement, but his preoccupation with language has been a constant. As poet and scholar Dworkin's introduction notes, Acconci holds an Iowa Writer's Workshop M.F.A., and, with Bernadette Mayer in the late '60s, he edited the highly influential mimeographed journal 0 to 9 . The pieces in this book, very few of which have been previously published and none of which has ever had wide distribution, do everything from reproducing the initial letter of every line of a page of Roget's Thesaurus to recounting his body's movements moment by moment—and then recounting the recounting. The works do what they're intended to do: represent artistic decision with an absolute minimum of content. They are often beautiful as orthographic arrangements, but they make for boring conventional reading. That boredom is part of the point, one that has been developed in different ways recently by Kenneth Goldsmith, Tan Lin and Brian Kim Stefans. It's an acquired taste for some (a problem exacerbated by the lack of notes here), but the strain of American art at work can be found in everything from Warhol to electronica. (Mar.)