by Adrian Piper
In her art as well as in her life, Adrian Piper has confronted the pervasive racism of our society. Piper, who is of mixed–race ancestry, is particularly concerned with the ways in which racism shapes our very sense of identity and self.
Cornered (1988) consists of a single video monitor which is wedged into a corner of the gallery behind an overturned table. The monitor is flanked by two birth certificates one identifying Piper’s father as white and the other as black (octoroon). Piper herself appears on the monitor, addressing viewers casually and quietly. Her own ambiguous racial identity, which confounds stereotypes due to Piper’s light skin and self–described “bourgie, junior-miss” style of dress, serves as a basis for Piper’s rigorously argued, deconstructive analysis that calls into question not only her own apparent racial identity, but the viewer’s as well.
PUSSY RIOT RELEASES NEW SINGLE: PUTIN LIGHTS UP THE FIRES!
"I would like to point out that very similar methods were used during the trial of the poet [Joseph] Brodsky. His poems were defined as “so-called” poems; the witnesses for the prosecution hadn’t actually read them—just as a number of the witnesses in our case didn’t see the performance itself and only watched the clip online. Our apologies, it seems, are also being defined by the collective prosecuting body as “so-called” apologies. Even though this is offensive. And I am overwhelmed with moral injury and psychological trauma. Because our apologies were sincere. I am sorry that so many words have been uttered and you all still haven’t understood this. Or it is calculated deviousness when you talk about our apologies as insincere. I don’t know what you still need to hear from us. But for me this trial is a “so-called” trial. And I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of falsehood and fictitiousness, of sloppily disguised deception, in the verdict of the so-called court." Maria Alyokhina, Pussy Riot
SCRIPT FROM THE PERFORMANCE, BOXED:
The script was read while the artist was inside the box to the right of the video of a segment of the Pussy Riot trial. Her performance was streamed live from her studio.
2012: RUSSIA, Maria Alyokhina -Pussy Riot, Artist & Activist-Excerpt from the Closing Statement of her trial:
“This trial is highly typical and speaks volumes. The current government will have occasion to feel shame and embarrassment because of it for a long time to come. At each stage it has embodied a travesty of justice. As it turned out, our performance, at first a small and somewhat absurd act, snowballed into an enormous catastrophe. This would obviously not happen in a healthy society. Russia, as a state, has long resembled an organism sick to the core. And the sickness explodes out into the open when you rub up against its inflamed abscesses. At first and for a long time this sickness gets hushed up in public, but eventually it always finds resolution through dialogue. And look—this is the kind of dialogue that our government is capable of. This trial is not only a malignant and grotesque mask, it is the “face” of the government’s dialogue with the people of our country”.
2004 to 2008: USA, Steven Kurtz, CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE member and SUNY Buffalo Professor:
In May 2004 husband and wife, Steven and Hope Kurtz were preparing to present FREE RANGE GRAIN, an art project examining genetically modified agriculture, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, when Hope Kurtz died of heart failure. Emergency personnel who responded to Kurtz’s 911 call deemed the couple’s art suspicious and called the FBI. The art materials consisted of several petri dishes containing three harmless bacteria cultures, and a mobile lab to test food, labeled “organic,” for the presence of genetically modified ingredients.
The next day as SUNY Buffalo professor was on his way to the funeral home, he was illegally detained by agents from the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force who informed him he was being investigated for “bioterrorism.” At no point during the 22 hours Kurtz was held and questioned did the agents Mirandize him or inform him he could leave. Meanwhile, agents from numerous federal law enforcement agencies - including five regional branches of the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Buffalo Police, Fire Department, and state Marshall’s office - descended on Kurtz’s home in Hazmat suits. Cordoning off half a block around his home, they seized his cat, car, computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife’s body from the county coroner for further analysis.
Artist Steve Kurtz and collaborator Robert Ferrell, Professor of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, faced a possible 20 years in prison in what became a politically motivated attempt to silence an artist and scientist whose work is critical of U.S. government policy.
2012: RUSSIA, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova,Pussy Riot, Artist & Activist-Excerpt from her closing statement at her trial.
“What was behind our performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and the subsequent trial? Nothing other than the autocratic political system. Pussy Riot’s performances can either be called dissident art or political action that engages art forms. Either way, our performances are a kind of civic activity amidst the repressions of a corporate political system that directs its power against basic human rights and civil and political liberties. The young people who have been flayed by the systematic eradication of freedoms perpetrated through the aughts have now risen against the state. We were searching for real sincerity and simplicity, and we found these qualities in the holy foolishness of punk”.
“Passion, total honesty, and naïveté are superior to the hypocrisy, mendacity, and false modesty that are used to disguise crime. The so-called leading figures of our state stand in the Cathedral with righteous faces on, but, in their cunning, their sin is greater than our own”.
2004-08, USA, Professor Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble:
Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, also seized a project that was to have been part of an exhibition and performance at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and three other projects that had been safely displayed in museums and galleries throughout Europe and North America.
The Erie County Health Department condemned his house as a possible “health risk.” Later The New York State Commissioner of Public Health determined that the materials seized by the FBI pose no public safety risk. To this day, the FBI has refused to return most of the tens of thousands of dollars worth of impounded materials, including a book Kurtz was working on.
1965: USA, Newly elected President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Endowment for the Arts into legislation declaring:
"We fully recognize that no government can call artistic excellence into existence. It must flow from the quality of the society and the good fortune of the Nation. Nor should any government seek to restrict the freedom of the artist to pursue his calling in his own way. Freedom is an essential condition for the artist, and in proportion as freedom is diminished so is the prospect of artistic achievement."
Inspired by Adrian Piper’s 1988 performance ‘Cornered’ and the highly publicized trial of Russian Media Activists/Artists, Pussy Riot, “BOXED” addresses the continued deterioration of civil rights, freedom of speech, and right to privacy, in the United States post-911 and the passing of the **Patriot Act.
“BOXED” will be streamed live from my studio (9/28/2012) and into an Installtion at The Baron Gallery, in Oberlin, Ohio. It will continue to stream at intervals throughout the exhibition.