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Adrian Piper, The Mythic Being; I/You (Her) (1974)


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
"We started out with beliefs about the world and our place in it that we didn't ask for and didn't question. Only later, when those beliefs were attacked by new experiences that didn't conform to them, did we begin to doubt: e.g., do we and our friends really understand each other? Do we really have nothing in common with blacks/whites/gays/workers/the middle class/other women/other men/etc.?"--Adrian Piper, 1981

Adrian Piper is an important figure in the early development of Conceptual Art in the 1960s and is one of the few African Americans involved in that movement. Her multidisciplinary work--which has included photography, performance, drawing, video, and sound installation--often combines text with image or ephemeral performance with physical documentation.

Beginning in the 1970s, Piper began to incorporate issues of identity while maintaining a strong conceptual basis in her work. As a black woman often mistaken for white, she sought to engage her audience with racism and sexism by drawing on an autobiographical catalogue of experiences. The Mythic Being series (1972-1975), which includes 10 images, was developed by Piper while she was a doctoral student in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. She created a male alter ego, and by performing in this guise found a release from the intense pressures and tensions of being the only black woman in her department. Piper challenges us to be actively aware of, and perhaps struggle with, ways that race and gender can misdirect our understanding of individuals.

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Type: Commentary, curriculum resource
Source: Text for Adrian Piper, The Mythic Being; I/You (Her) (1974), from the curriculum guide So, Why Is This Art?, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2002.
Rights: Copyright 2002 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009