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Minor Canon

Adrian Piper Food for the Spirit tee (light)

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Adrian Piper (b. 1948) is an American conceptual artist and Kantian philosopher.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s Piper was influenced by Sol LeWitt and Yvonne Rainer. She worked at the Seth Siegelaub Gallery, known for its conceptual art exhibitions, in 1969. In 1970, she exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Information exhibition, and began to study philosophy.

For the entire summer of 1971, Piper stayed in her New York loft and did nothing but read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (1781), a durational performance piece that she called Food for the Spirit. As she described in retrospect ten years later, the more she read about the transcendental subject, the more she felt like losing her physical identity, becoming transcendental herself - probably not least because she held to a strict water and juice diet for the same period. To reassure herself that she still existed, she established a ritual whereby she would photograph herself in front of the mirror and record her voice quoting from Kant. The underexposed photos have an eerie, ghostly quality, as if Piper actually was becoming translucent, ephemeral (she admits she always had a soft spot for mysticism).

Piper has also described being ostracized from the art world in her early career for her race and sex (being a mixed-race Black woman). Her art increasingly began to address ostracism, otherness, and attitudes around racism.

In the 1970s, she began a series of street performances under the collective title, Catalysis, which included actions such as painting her clothes with white paint, wearing a sign that read "Wet Paint", and going to Macy's department store to shop for gloves and sunglasses; stuffing a huge white towel into her mouth and riding the bus, subway, and Empire State Building elevator; and dousing herself in a mixture of vinegar, eggs, milk, and cod liver oil and then spending a week moving around New York's subway and bookstores. The Catalysis performances were meant to catalyze challenges that constituted the order of the social field, "at the level of dress, sanity, and the distinction between public and private acts."

Piper's Mythic Being series, started in 1973, saw the artist dressed in a wig and moustache and performing publicly as a "third world, working class, overly hostile male." Between 1982 and 1984, Piper staged a series of events advertised as Funk Lessons, which invited participants to learn about the dance styles, culture, and history of funk music. Piper located the roots of funk in African tribal music and saw it as integral to the growing presence of black cultural figures in America and the ongoing struggle for equal rights. By exposing diverse audiences to the music of African American counterculture, Piper sought to create a dialogue about the cultural value of dance music and the politics of race and identity. She acted as a facilitator to discussions that, at times, grew heated as participants strayed from the academic format to engage in active discussion. By engaging audiences in active participation, Piper saw herself as creating an early work of relational aesthetics or what might be described as social practice.

A 50-year retrospective of Piper's work, displayed on the top floor of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from March 31, 2018, to July 22, 2018, was the first time the MoMA devoted that entire level to a living artist. Piper has also published extensively in the field of Kantian philosophy.

Further reading:

• 100% combed and ring-spun cotton (Heather colors contain polyester)
• Fabric weight: 4.2 oz/yd² (142 g/m²)
• Pre-shrunk fabric
• Side-seamed construction
• Shoulder-to-shoulder taping
• Blank product sourced from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Honduras, or the US


Size guide

XS (inches) 27 16 ½ 31-34
S (inches) 28 18 34-37
M (inches) 29 20 38-41
L (inches) 30 22 42-45
XL (inches) 31 24 46-49
2XL (inches) 32 26 50-53
3XL (inches) 33 28 54-57


XS (cm) 68.6 42 78.7-86.4
S (cm) 71.1 45.7 86.4-94
M (cm) 73.7 50.8 96.5-104.1
L (cm) 76.2 55.9 106.7-114.3
XL (cm) 78.7 61 116.8-124.5
2XL (cm) 81.3 66 127-134.6
3XL (cm) 83.8 71.1 137.2-144.8