Vito Acconci's contribution to experimental film and video was limited to just a few years -- 1969 to 1977 -- in what proved to be a long career spent in a variety of artistic disciplines. Nevertheless, he was crucially important and widely influential in the arts, as was his work as a performance artist in the same general period. Born in the Bronx, Acconci earned his degree in literature from the University of Iowa in 1964 and set about making his way as a poet, but after achieving a few publications he grew tired of it and moved into performance art.
Acconci's entrance into film and video around 1970 was partly necessitated by his desire to document his performance art, which was confrontational, invasive, and tended to trammel the personal space of the viewer or audience member. Among the most famous of his early performance pieces was "Following Piece" (1969), in which Acconci followed random people around the streets of various cities; his most notorious piece, "Seedbed" (1972), was a gallery installation where Acconci, concealed underneath a platform, allegedly masturbated and audibly communicated sexual fantasies about the persons walking over it through a loudspeaker. While controversial, Acconci's artistic interest in abrogating the viewer's sense of personal security was easily seen as a serious pursuit in the wake of the 1960s; it might be a little less easy to understand in a security-obsessed, post-9/11 society.