Adrian Piper: Catalysis series (1970-71)

Piper’s Catalysis was a series of conceptual performances in Manhattan that violated social norms of public behaviour. The resulting photographs document the artist bearing a WET PAINT sign in a crowded street, stuffing her mouth with a towel on public transportation, wearing smelly clothes inside a store, and playing a recording of belching sounds inside a library. Piper never announced that she was performing; unlike televised pranks, the interventions offered no moment of revelation for the strangers who witnessed her behaviour. By escaping the confines of the art context, Piper risked appearing repellent, if not crazy. Acting as a catalytic agent for chance reactions, she dissolved the boundary between art and life.


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