Food for the Spirit
December 11 1997 – January 31 1998
Opening: Thursday December 11, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
On view will be 14 B/W photographic self-portraits taken in conjunction with Piper's study of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason during summer of 1971. A ring binder with smaller but otherwise identical prints, juxtaposed with torn out pages from Kant's text annotated by the artist, will accompany the framed set.
Although selections from Food for the Spirit have been included in all major shows of the artist's work, this is the first time that it will be available in its entirety (initially displayed in Reconsidering the Object of Art: 1965-1975, MoCA, Los Angeles, CA, Spring 1995, the work was withdrawn by the artist).
Reenacting Kant's anecdotally famous own ascetism through "fasting, doing yoga, and isolating myself socially" while studying Kant's text, Piper countered her anxiety at losing her sense of self by looking at and photographing herself in the mirror while repeating passages which she found particularly disorienting. She also tape recorded herself, but the tapes were accidentally destroyed.
Immensely important on various levels, this piece marked a departure in conceptual art practices to a direct confrontation with 'the body'. Kant's idea of the sublime, a place where imagination and understanding collapse to be replaced by pure reason, is confronted with the necessity of bodily self-assurance. The site of our humanity is extended from the mind to include the body, thus challenging the then pervasive privileging of the mind.
A key work within Piper's oeuvre, Food for the Spirit introduces a subjectivity which leads to those of her later works concerned with identity politics. Shot with a Brownie camera in an arte povera sensibility, the photographs do not record or document visual events but function as carriers of a momentary visceral energy, a mood, or consciousness.
Food for the Spirit will be included in Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, a major survey exhibition curated by Paul Schimmel at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Feb. 13 – May 1998, which is now scheduled to travel to the MAC – Barcelona, the MAK – Vienna, the MOCA – Tokyo, and the National Museum of Art – Osaka.