Adrian Piper


Adrian Piper was born in New York in 1948 and lives in Berlin. She studied art at the School of Visual Arts in New York from 1966-69, and also at City College of New York from 1970-74. After that she took up philosophy at Harvard University, in Cam-bridge, Massachusetts. After a sojourn at the University of Heidelberg, Germany from 1977-78, she completed her doctorate in 1981. From 1987 until 2008 Adrian Piper held a professorship for philosophy at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. Since 2005 she has been living in Berlin, where she founded and runs the Adrian Piper Research Archive (APRA).

Additional biography

After beginnings in painting and following her encounter with the conceptual works and writings of Sol LeWitt, Piper began to turn her attention to language. Piper looked into aspects of time and space in an extensive series of works involving texts and numerical combinations on paper. She combined these conceptual investigations in her "Hypothesis"-Series (1968-70), "involving a reconnaissance of her own body, which was being looked upon as a concrete object, which referred in an equal measure to itself and to other objects." Here, she documented her everyday personal activities, such as reading a newspaper or doing the shopping. Piper’s first solo exhibition was the mail art project "Three Untitled Projects" (1969), which was published in the magazine "0 to 9" (edited by Vito Acconci.) She was the only African Ameri-can woman artist to participate in important exhibitions, for example, "Concept Art" (1969) in Leverkusen, Germany, or "Information" (1970) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the 1970s Piper began to channel her art into non-artistic situations through performances within the public space that have since become legendary. As her own male alter ego, the "Mythic Being," she mimicked a black male self-presentation. By this time she had decided to pursue an academic study of philosophy, as she did not feel content with a lay person’s approach to philosophical doctrines. Piper’s work directly address subjects such as xenophobia and the nature of the self. She avoids all elitist art language, and tries instead to create situations, where viewers can react in an immediate way. In her famous "Funk Lessons" (1982-83), for example, the public was invited to identify their own stereotypes of blacks by dancing to funk music. So far, six retrospectives of Adrian Piper’s work have been shown, including one organized by the Generali Foundation in 2002. (Sabine Breitwieser)

Artist's books

  • Adrian Piper. Colored people. Ed. Adrian Piper for Book Works, London. 1991.
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