Voice of America
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 Tiravanija 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.