Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Adrian Piper's Advertisements in the Village Voice

Adrian Piper, ad in the Village Voice, September 27, 1973, from "The Mythic Being: 4 Village Voice Ads" series

In the early 1970s, Adrian Piper created a persona she dubbed the “Mythic Being” for, in her words:
“a street performance I did over a four-year period, from 1972 to 1976, in drag as a young male of color. I wore Afro, shades, moustache, and smoked a Tiparillo. I visited certain culture-related locales around the city: art gallery openings, concerts, films, plays, etc., as well as took the subways and buses and walked the streets at night in different neighborhoods.”

She also recorded sections of writing from her childhood journals and published excerpts in the Village Voice from 1973 to 1975. According to Piper’s extensive curriculum vitae, the project began with four ads that ran on September 27, 1973; November 29, 1973; January 3, 1974; and January 31, 1974. (They are posted above and below.) Thank to the magic of the Village Voice archive on Google Books, it is now also possible to see them in context of the other advertisements that were running at the time, without having to trudge off to a microfilm archive.

After slicing out those four ads, I had the pleasure of discovering that Thomas Erben Gallery has posted the complete set of “Mythic Being” Village Voice ads online (many more ran after that first set of four), including one that was censored from the newspaper. (In its place, she ran an ad telling readers that the banned work was available for viewing at a bookstore at 157 Spring in SoHo, where Sunglass Hut is located today.) The April 25, 1974 ad is a personal favorite. It reads: “I really wish I had a firmer grip on reality. Sometimes I think I have better ideas than anyone else around with the exception of Sol LeWitt and possibly Bob Smithson, whose ideas I really respect.”

Village Voice, November 29, 1973

Village Voice, January 3, 1974

Village Voice, January 31, 1974

But wait! There is more. Digging through the Voice archive, it turns out that Piper actually placed her first ad years before starting her “Mythic Being” series. A tiny ad, shown below, was published in the March 20, 1969 edition. It reads: “ADRIAN PIPER from March on.” According to Piper’s CV, she had her first solo show — a "postal art exhibition" — with the 0 to 9 press, the magazine run by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer, in March 1969, making the ad an opening announcement for what would be a triumphant career: two months later, her work appeared in group shows at Paula Cooper and the Dwan Gallery.

Village Voice, March 20, 1969

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