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Ars brevis — Artist Vito Acconci may take over the universe. Since the late ’60s, his work has gradually gotten bigger, metaphorically and literally. At first he penned words on the page, then the New York writer-poet slowly turned to photography, which was accompanied by text. Then he began to move his image, inserting himself in videos. Those performances used themes of the body, gender and identity. Soon after, he created multimedia installations, taking the topic of human interaction and our perceived experience inhabiting space. He also crafted large-scale sculptures. Finally, Acconci really put art to use, leaving his highly conceptual works for more practical forms, focusing on architecture and urban design. He’s even constructed an island, the stainless steel land mass floating on the Mur river in Graz, Austria, housing an amphitheatre, a café and a playground.

It’s a tragedy that Acconci’s public art in Detroit’s St. Aubin Park, located at Atwater Street between St. Aubin and Orleans, was demolished sometime last spring. According to Dennis Nawrocki’s Art in Detroit Public Places, “Land of the Boats,” completed in 1991, was the artist’s first public project, representing a shift in Acconci’s career, when his ideas about the individual in his environment are played out in the real world. The reasoning behind the art’s destruction is not clear, but the order may have come from the city, possibly in conjunction with current renovations.

As part of the College for Creative Studies’ Woodward Avenue Lecture Series, Acconci discusses his flow of experimentation at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 31, in the Wendell W. Anderson Jr. Auditorium inside the Walter B. Ford II Building on the CCS campus. It’s free and open to the public. Call 313-664-7800 for more information.

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