Adrian Piper

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Adrian Piper is a first-generation conceptual artist and analytic philosopher.

  • Matteo Guarnaccia: "Tell us something about the story behind the "Over the Edge" works?" Adrian Piper: "Actually none of them were done during psychedelic experiences, although they were influenced by what I learned during them. I only took LSD about six times over a period of six months - I stopped taking it when it stopped having an effect on my usual state of consciousness. But by that time I had discovered the texts that helped me make sense of the experiences I'd been having - The Upanishads, The Bhagavad-Gita, The Yoga Sutras, and was deep into meditation and yoga. The paintings are very much about what it was like for me to go beyond the surfaces of things - to concentrate so intently on the fine detail and structure of a meditational object - on any object, really, any perceptual reality - that all of its surface sensory qualities, its conventional meanings and uses, its psychological associations and conceptual significance, all begin to move, breath, vibrate, break up, and fall away. That's when you start to realize how much of "ordinary" reality is nothing more than a subjective mental construct. When the surfaces of perceptual reality start to hum and crack open to reveal what lies beyond them, that's where the deep insights live that are beyond words or concepts. I view all of my work from that period as signposts that point the way to a deeper reality that by definition can't be depicted or described. It was a tremendously fertile time for me. I was drawing, painting, reading, writing, listening to music constantly, and hanging out with people whose own productivity and seriousness about cognitive investigation inspired me."
  • "Almost all of the people I knew at that time who were experimenting with psychedelics were considerably older than me, and virtually all of them had absolutely traumatizing, earth-shattering, often very painful psychedelic experiences in which all of their assumptions about reality were rooted out, blown out of the water. I saw people being completely cut loose from their conventional moorings, from the orderly, 1950s conceptual schemes in which they'd been raised. I think many people got lost because the cognitive foundations of their lives had been shattered and they didn't know which way to turn, what to hang on to. Nonconformity, oppositionality, spontaneity, sheer silliness became ends in themselves because there were often no deeper values to replace the false conventional ones that had been displaced. People got sidetracked into nonconformity and spontaneity then just as they get sidetracked into sex and power now. My own experiences were earth-shaking enough, but always positive and powerful - nowhere near as traumatizing as what those around me were going through. I think my youth protected me. Because I was too young to have many settled or rigid beliefs, it didn't feel so threatening to have them undermined."
  • MG: "Do you feel that psychedelic experiences had a fall out in politics?" AP: "Yes, definitely. It caused middle-class white kids to look critically at themselves, their values, and the society they had inherited. Those are the people who are now in their 50s and running the world, both on the right and on the left. There's a connection between the interest in eastern philosophy of the 1960s and New Age conceptions of health care now; between the Jesus Freaks of the 1960s and American Christian Fundamentalism now, between the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and Feminism now, between countercultural communities of the 1960s and leftist, communitarian politics now; and between the organic food/back-to-the-land movements of the 1960s and the environmental movement now. All of those 1960s trends were influenced by psychedelics, and all of them are showing up in political forms now."