Adrian Piper

Thomas Erben Gallery

In the summer of 1971, Adrian Piper produced a series of self-portraits, Food for the Spirit, that unfolds around the measured repetition of a single action: standing expressionless before a large mirror, peering into her reflection, she photographed herself in the act of photographing herself. Though her state of dress varies from house clothes to underwear to nothing at all, she always assumes the same pose, clutching her Brownie camera just below her breasts, and positions herself at a similar remove from the mirror.

As a series (which had never before been shown in its entirety), the photos convey an instability that is readily discerned as a function of the images’ frames wobbling in relation to a center (Piper’s body) that is never in exactly the same place. But the pictures demonstrate a more fundamental level of restlessness as well: Piper’s apparently simple procedure necessitates

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