Several Snappy Pieces

I re-performed Vito Acconci’s Theme Song and Undertone via Snapchat and Manipulations via video chat. These reperformances are a complication of gender roles as well an exploration of Snapchat and video chat in the context of media history.

Snapchat is a cell phone app that allows users to record and send up to 10 seconds of video to selected ‘friends’.  Once the friend has watched the video it disappears and is no longer able to be viewed. In Theme Song Acconci lies on the floor with his face seductively close to the camera, distorting the view of his body. He lights a cigarette and sings along to The Doors’ I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind while looking directly into the camera. He says, “Of course I can’t see your face. I have know idea what your face looks like.” In my version, I dress in a long-sleeved dark shirt like Acconci, position my body in the same way as him on the floor, and look into the cell phone camera humming the first notes of I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind as Acconci does in his piece. I say, “Of course I can see your face. I know exactly what your face looks like.” I send 10 second videos of my performance to people I am connected with via Snapchat.

Many people who have viewed Theme Song with me find Acconci’s performance “really creepy”. In developing this Several Snappy Pieces I wanted to know - Would a female performer (myself) come across as creepy while performing the same actions as Acconi? Women usually rely on explicit photographs and videos of themselves to be seductive on the internet. Could a woman to be seductive without exposing her body?

Acconci’s piece reflects on the nature of broadcast television. At that time videos were pre-recorded then broadcast to an unknown audience. There was no feedback loop to find out who watched the video or what they thought about it. With Snapchat we broadcast video seconds after recording it to a known audience who can respond immediately. The contemporary way of broadcasting and sharing information is very insular in that everyone curates the media they consume to reinforce their opinions and interests. It is a closed circuit. People rarely have to interact with others who think and live differently than they do. Even the randomness of encountering someone in public space has been eliminated by our default action of looking at our cell phones. The spoken text in Several Snappy Pieces draws attention to this change in the way information is broadcast and received between 1973 and now.