Adrian Piper and Peter Kennedy: The Mythic Being/ Other Than Art's Sake

13 April–5 June 2005

Adrian Margaret Smith Piper is a conceptual and political artist whose work over three decades has revolved around aspects of racism, xenophobia, gender and class. The artist’s opposition to a homogenous and patriarchal culture manifested itself in the early 70s through direct actions, whereby she manipulated her appearance and behaviour in order to question convention and generally accepted norms in the public space. Probably Piper’s best known project, the performance series The Mythic Being (1972 – 1976), arose as a spontaneous experiment in which the artist dressed herself as an African-American man and wandered around the city, smoking and behaving according to male stereotypes, as seen for example in The Mythic Being Cruising White Women. Index presents three of the artist’s actions in documented form: as film, audio and text. The aim of the presentation is not to attempt a reconstruction of Piper’s work, but rather to use them as a basis for further discussion about their continued topicality in the
present today.

Index also presents Peter Kennedy’s Other than Art’s Sake 1973 – 1974, a documentary including interviews of artists and featuring their work from the era being presented, including among others Adrian Piper and The Mythic Being. This documentary film is shown in order to offer visitors a reflection of this particular period and a presentation of the political era in which Adrian Piper and some of her colleagues created their work. Other than Art’s Sake 1973 – 1974 was filmed in New York, London and Edinburgh. Also seen here are Ian Breakwell, Judy Chicago, Hans Haacke, David Medalla, Arlene Raven, Charles Simonds and Stephen Willats.

Adrian Piper’s work has recently been exhibited in two retrospective exhibitions in USA, Adrian Piper: A Retrospective 1965-1995, and MEDIAtions: Adrian Piper’s Video and Audio Works 1968-1992. A retrospective European exhibition, Adrian Piper since 1965, has been shown at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and at the Generali Foundation, Vienna. Piper also participated in Documenta XI, Kassel, 2002.