All dead. All immortal.

Vito Acconci

Cry Baby! (Now do you know what time it is?), installation

NYC 1977, Groningen 1978
Clocktower overlooking city, street. Cable shuts doors, opens windows, winds up staircase to tower space, drops weight out window. Voice, feedback, shoots from main floor up to top. 'Now you're alone, but somebody must pay...'.

The next year, from August 12 through September 9, 1978, I presented his installation piece 'Cry Baby! (Now do you know what time it is?)' in an adaptation for the clocktower of the Martinichurch in Groningen. The piece was originally conceived for The Clocktower in New York where it was presented in Decermber of 1977 by Alanna Heiss's Institute for Art and Urban Resources. A series of photographs representing the piece was acquired by the National Gallery of Australia NGA in 1979.

Vito Acconci (1977) Cry Baby!

Art: Noise in the Attic

'As gallery habitués know, the Institute of Art and Urban Resources is an organization financed by state and Federal funds, which puts on exhibitions and performances, usually of an avantgarde nature. It is situated at, the top of the Clocktower at 108 Leonard Street in SoHo, which is an environmental statement on its own. A large, seedy, city‐owned building, it has the ambience of an Eastern European ministry as seen by Alfred Hitchcock in his prime.

The Clocktower is, therefore, the ideal setting for Vito Acconci's “Cry Baby!”, an audio event that reverberates through the three floors of the institute's territory. To make the most of the experience, viewers are advised to pick the bleakest possible day to go —preferably a Saturday afternoon, when the industrial life of eastern SoHo has been extinguished.

“Cry Baby” is a monologue relayed by speakers attached to a taut cable that crisscrosses the room that constitutes the 13th floor, threading its way through a circular staircase to the very pinnacle of the building. Those suffering from vertigo will already be uneasy in this room, which is virtually cubic with white walls and a gray ceiling. Its structural girders are visible; the windows have been opened to accommodate speakers, and the door in the wall appears to open onto 13 stories of space. There is, in addition, the discomfort of feeling, as one stands around this 600‐odd square feet of space, again part of an old movie —this time early Antonioni.

Mr. Acconci, who was born in the Bronx, was ‘a poet before he turned to body art at the end of the 1960s. This may account for his rhythmical delivery, although his insinuating voice, punctuated by heavy breathing, is reminiscent of anonymous phone calls. In any event, the message is not relayed continuously by any one speaker, being rotated among them on various levels to the accompaniment of bagpipelike whines. It seems to consist of admonitions designed to aggravate paranoia, some of them repeated several times — “Remember, somebody must pay”; “Remember, you're the one”; “Surely you were the person am but”; “Surely I gave you up years ago but.” The phrases also change slightly: “Go, go, vertigo” becomes “Girl, girl, vertigirl”—or so it sounds.

The sensory climax takes place in the top room, which contains the derelict machinery of the clock, whose frosted glass faces —each telling a different time— fill the four crumbling walls. The heightsick visitor will be especially moved by the view of Manhattan through the hole in one of the faces and by the way the wind whistles through the belfry.

“Cry Baby!”, of course, is tame stuff compared with Mr. Acconci's early work, notably his notorious self‐abuse number of 1972, at the Sonnabend Gallery. Still, most people mellow with age and success, and the artist, now 37, is reported to be fully employed as an audio‐visual performer. Though no longer a sensation, he retains his instinct for drama. However, one suspects his effects seem clever only because they are mounted in an art gallery. The feebler minded may, accordingly, be persuaded that they have undergone an important esthetic experience. (Through Dec. 31.)'

Vivien Raynor, The New York Times, Dec. 9, 1977

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