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Collections Browse The Mythic Being; I/You (Her)

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Image
Courtesy Walker Art Center
Rights
© Adrian Piper

Copyright

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Title
The Mythic Being; I/You (Her)
Artist
Adrian Piper
Date
1974
Dimensions
each of ten 8 × 5 × inches
Materials
black-and-white photograph, ink
Location
Not on view

Object Details

Type
Photographs (Photographs)
Accession Number
1999.14.1-.10
Inscriptions
in red pencil on reverse of each photograph “Same Size 189” -“195"in black ink, front, BL on each image "The Mythic Being: I/You (Her), 1” - 10
Physical Description
A repeated black-and-white image of two women with an added dialog balloon by the artist. Through the series the seated woman is gradually transformed into a man.
Printer
N.A.
Credit Line
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 1999
Object Copyright
© Adrian Piper

object label Adrian Piper, The Mythic Being; I/You (Her) (1974) Walker Art Center, 1999

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. She has had a profound impact on a number of artists in the ensuing decades, including Glenn Ligon, Jenny Holzer, Howardena Pindell, and Lorna Simpson.

Beginning in the 1970s, Piper’s work began to incorporate issues of identity while maintaining a strong conceptual basis. As a black woman often mistaken for white, she sought to engage her audience with racism and sexism by working from an autobiographical catalogue of experiences. The Mythic Being series (1972-1975) was developed by Piper while she was a doctoral student in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. She developed 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. Through this series, she challenges the viewer to be actively aware of, and perhaps struggle with, the phenomenon of xenophobia and racial stereotyping in 1970s America.

Label text for Adrian Piper, The Mythic Being; I/You (Her) (1974), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

curriculum resource Adrian Piper, The Mythic Being; I/You (Her) (1974) Walker Art Center, 2002

“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.

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.

Copyright 2002 Walker Art Center