Vito Hannibal Acconci began his career as a poet, editing 0 TO 9 with Bernadette Mayer in the late 1960s. In the late 1960s, Acconci transformed himself into a performance and ist using his own body as a subject forphotography, film, video, and performance. His performance and video work was marked heavily by confrontation and Situationism. In the mid 1970s, Acconci expanded his metier into the world of audio/visual installations.
One installation/performance piece from this period is Seedbed (January 15–29, 1971). In Seedbed Acconci lay hidden underneath a gallery-wide ramp installed at the Sonnabend Gallery, masturbating while vocalizing into a loudspeaker his fantasies about the visitors walking above him on the ramp. One motivation behind Seedbed was to involve the public in the work's production by creating a situation of reciprocal interchange between artist and viewer.
In the article "Video: the Aesthetics of Narcissism", Rosalind Krauss refers to aspects of Narcissism apparent in the video work of Acconci. “A line of sight begin Acconci’s plane of vision ends on the eyes of his projected double”. Krauss uses this description to underline aspects of Narcissism in the Vito Acconci work Centers. In the piece Acconci is filming himself pointing directly at himself for about 25 minutes, by doing so Acconci makes a nonsensical gesture that exemplifies the critical aspects of a work of art through the beginning of the 20th century. Krauss also goes on to explain the psychological basis behind the actions of video in comparison to discussions of object art.
During the 1980s he invited viewers to create artwork by activating machinery that erected shelters and signs. He also turned to the creation of furniture and to prototypes of houses and gardens in the late 1980s. The artist also founded Acconci Studio in 1988 focusing on theoretical design and building. Acconci has designed the United Bamboo store in Tokyo in 2003 and collaborated on concept designs for interactive art vehicle Mister Artsee in 2006 among others.
More recently, the artist has focused on architecture and landscape design that integrates public and private space. One example of this is "Walkways Through the Wall," which flow through structural boundaries of the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and provide seating at both ends.
Another example of his work is Dirt Wall (1992) at the Arvada Center Sculpture Garden in Colorado. The wall begins outside the Arvada Center and extends inside, rising from ground level to a height of 24 feet. The glass and steel wall contains a mixture of volcanic rock, various types of sand, red dolomite, and topsoil which are visible through the glass panels, and represents an attempt to bring what is underground up, and what is outside in.