Catalogue entry

P07639 (i)–(vi) 3 Flags for 1 Space and 6 Regions 1979–81

Six sheet aquatint 95 5/8 × 73 1/4 (2430 × 1860) overall, printed by Nancy Anello at Crown Point Press, Oakland, California, and published by them in an edition of 25
Inscribed ‘VA 79–81’ and ‘2/25’ and ‘3 FLAGS FOR ONE SPACE AND 6 REGIONS’ b.r. on P07639(iv); impressed with the printer's and publisher's stamp
Purchased from Crown Point Press (Grant-in-Aid) 1982

Acconci had made his first etchings at Crown Point Press in 1977 and returned there in 1979 to make three large pieces, ‘20ft Ladder for Any Size Wall’, ‘2 Wings for wall and Person’ and the present work. The use of multiplied sheets, eight, twelve and six respectively, was the result of Acconci's thinking in terms of making etchings more like his installations and consequently extending their scale far beyond conventional etching sizes. Acconci has written:

My tendency has been to use prints either as a summariser (the image ‘puts something in print,’ finishes it off) or as a precursor (the image announces, for me, to me, a future interest - the image, literally, is ‘etched’ into my mind, to be dealt with later - the image stands there, waving like a flag, beckoning like an advertisement, urging me on) (letter to the compiler, 18 July 1986).


P07639 is a colour aquatint of the American, Russian and Chinese flags hanging vertically and overlapping each other; the image refers to the dominating presence of the ‘super-powers’ and their potentially deadly rivalry for terrestrial space. It is related to an installation entitled ‘Let's Pretend This Is An Apparatus For A Political Kidnapping’ (shown in the Kunstverein, Hamburg 1979) in which three flags hang side by side along a fishing rod fixed to the back of a winged bicycle, to whose handlebars a pram is attached, the whole construction being strung across the gallery space from high on one wall. The flags are the Russian and American flags, both painted white, with a white flag of truce. In an installation made in 1980 and titled ‘Instant House’ four walls covered with American flags lie on the floor and when the viewer sits on a swing in the centre they rise to surround him with a house-shape, the outer walls of which are covered with the Russian flag. This extends the ideas in the present work by literally containing the viewer, while hiding from him the ‘colour’ of his house's outer walls and thus pointing out the interchangeability of the powers represented by the flags. Acconci is concerned with the space of the gallery and with the work of art (the image) as a vehicle of communication - he uses the words ‘space’ and ‘vehicle’ as well as using various literal forms of both as active parts of his installations:

...the vehicle takes on the function of ‘image’; the space, rather than being an image, is in the position of having an image, the space is ‘embarrassed’ by the imposition of ornament as symbol or, more precisely, by the ornament's announcement - almost with a fanfare - that symbolising can happen here: form, then, is separated from content, content is freed from form, allowing, e.g. an institutionalised form to be intruded on by (and to be the bearer of) radical content (the artist in Cover, 11, no.1, 1980, pp.22–5).


This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986