John L Warfield Center

Artist strays from plan, speaks out on racism

Fri, November 10, 2006

Diverting from the scheduled lecture about her current project, "The Color Wheel Series: Why Shiva Dances," Piper used the evening to address problems of racial injustice and xenophobia due to "recent events" that she declined to mention specifically. Cherise Smith, an assistant art history professor who organized the event, said Piper altered her lecture in response to recent racist activity, including the ghetto-fabulous themed party held by UT law students in October and an offensive online video of Texas AandM University students wearing blackface.

Piper showcased four of her works, including footage of "Black Box/White Box," a video installation; a 1991 piece called "Please, God"; a series of movie clips entitled "Passing Beyond Passing"; and a video titled "Cornered" that challenged the audience to examine their personal reactions to racial issues.

Piper also read a portion from her latest transcript decrying the "fantasy of whiteness" in contrast to the "reality of blackness."

"The fantasy of whiteness is the dangerous set of faulty assumptions about racial purity our founding fathers and mothers used to rationalize the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of African-Americans and the unjust enrichment of European-Americans," Piper said. "All Americans have collaborated in abetting that fantasy in our history up to the present day."

Piper accused the "advertainment" industry, consumerism and network television for perpetuating the faulty assumption that being white is superior and for minimizing the social and economic reminders of blackness.

Piper graduated from Minnesota's College of Visual Arts in 1969 and began exhibiting her art internationally at age 20. She is regarded as one of the first artists to mix conceptual art strategies with political messages, Smith said. Much of Piper's art deals with issues of race and gender discrimination.

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