Title

Philosophical Examinations of Social Response through Artistic Analysis: Adrian Piper’s Catalysis (1970-1973)

Degree Program

Undergraduate

Major

Art History

Abstract

In donning personae and assuming alternate identities, Adrian Piper inserts herself into dynamic investigations of identity, gender, and race. By focusing on shifting identities, Piper initiates dialogue regarding the inherent biases of social constructions. In Catalysis (1970-1973), seven experiments over the course of three years examine shifting extrinsic properties of self, e.g., clothing, personal hygiene, accessories, and the process of going into public spaces in strange guises while behaving as if nothing was out of the norm. Piper’s methodical process of self-examination through Catalysis enables her to investigate the effects of external changes to the physical self on the internal self and on her immediate environment.

In one version of Catalysis, Piper soaks her clothing in vinegar, eggs, and cod liver oil for a week, and then wears the fermented clothing during rush hour on a public transit train in Brooklyn. The pungent smell of Piper’s clothing likely repelled her audience or caused them to back away in disgust. Piper’s examination of public responses to her exterior appearance enables a look into such social mores as to what offends and why. In this version of Catalysis, Piper takes on attributes typically associated with being homeless, mentally unstable, or impoverished while placing her audience in the position of responding to such an individual, which her audience would likely perceive as a potential threat or, at the very least, a physical nuisance. The event seems to be less about the specifics of any one actual act and more about donning personae before venturing out nonchalantly. By adding the external changes, Piper enables herself to hide behind the disguise and observe her surroundings.

Adrian Piper’s use of disguise in Catalysis allows her to create a wall between her and the audience. The disguise itself draws the audience’s attention to her but the audience does not look beyond the disguise; the audience sees what is on the outside. The mask of Piper’s disguise thus is the perfect means for observation of both the audience and herself. Piper can gauge reactions to her external features and gauge her own reactions to the audience’s responses. Furthermore, in donning the external persona, Piper is able to supersede the racial bias and social bias as an African American female.

Start Date

23-2-2018 10:30 AM

End Date

23-2-2018 11:55 AM

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Feb 23rd, 10:30 AM Feb 23rd, 11:55 AM

Philosophical Examinations of Social Response through Artistic Analysis: Adrian Piper’s Catalysis (1970-1973)

In donning personae and assuming alternate identities, Adrian Piper inserts herself into dynamic investigations of identity, gender, and race. By focusing on shifting identities, Piper initiates dialogue regarding the inherent biases of social constructions. In Catalysis (1970-1973), seven experiments over the course of three years examine shifting extrinsic properties of self, e.g., clothing, personal hygiene, accessories, and the process of going into public spaces in strange guises while behaving as if nothing was out of the norm. Piper’s methodical process of self-examination through Catalysis enables her to investigate the effects of external changes to the physical self on the internal self and on her immediate environment.

In one version of Catalysis, Piper soaks her clothing in vinegar, eggs, and cod liver oil for a week, and then wears the fermented clothing during rush hour on a public transit train in Brooklyn. The pungent smell of Piper’s clothing likely repelled her audience or caused them to back away in disgust. Piper’s examination of public responses to her exterior appearance enables a look into such social mores as to what offends and why. In this version of Catalysis, Piper takes on attributes typically associated with being homeless, mentally unstable, or impoverished while placing her audience in the position of responding to such an individual, which her audience would likely perceive as a potential threat or, at the very least, a physical nuisance. The event seems to be less about the specifics of any one actual act and more about donning personae before venturing out nonchalantly. By adding the external changes, Piper enables herself to hide behind the disguise and observe her surroundings.

Adrian Piper’s use of disguise in Catalysis allows her to create a wall between her and the audience. The disguise itself draws the audience’s attention to her but the audience does not look beyond the disguise; the audience sees what is on the outside. The mask of Piper’s disguise thus is the perfect means for observation of both the audience and herself. Piper can gauge reactions to her external features and gauge her own reactions to the audience’s responses. Furthermore, in donning the external persona, Piper is able to supersede the racial bias and social bias as an African American female.