This is one of Acconci’s most charged and dramatic exercises. ‘Turn-On’ defines a tense and dynamic confrontation with the viewer as well as an autobiographical work in which the artist assesses himself critically. In the first sequence we see the backside of the artist’s head in extreme close-up. Turned away from the camera, Acconci hums. A crescendo: first he does it softly and lyrically, next more aggressively, and then screachingly violently. Thereafter the artist wheels round to speak directly with the viewer.
Once again Acconci confronts the expectations of the viewer with his own expectations of the performance, as he says himself: “I’ve waited for the perfect time, for the perfect piece, I’m tired of waiting... but no, you want me to have something ready for you, something prepared.” In a third sequence the artist again turns away from the camera and once again takes up the humming, until a subsequent direct confrontation follows, and so forth.
In ‘Turn-On’ Acconci plays – just as in other works included in the exhibition – a (rhythmic) game with cinema jargon, with the calibrated rules of the theatre and the performance. The backside of his head and his face become theatrical space, limited by the edges of the screen. The further the work progresses, the more tense the atmosphere becomes; Acconci emphasises the dramatic situation of waiting with neurotic musical intermezzos that only make the situation more imminent.
Acconci addresses the artist’s perpetual wait for both inspiration and appreciation. He pulls apart the relationship between the artist and the audience, which for him constitutes a mixture of independence and co-dependence, relying on the viewer to both validate and motivate his work. Near the end of the tape, Acconci turns against his viewer, his work and himself, saying, “It’s me, I can’t find any reason anymore to do art.... I’m waiting for you to leave.”