Out of the Corner
Not on view
Seventeen-channel video installation, color, sound, 26 min. looped, with seventeen monitors, sixteen pedestals, table, twenty-three chairs and sixty-four gelatin silver prints
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the Peter Norton Family Foundation
Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate
In the video installation Out of the Corner, sixteen monitors form a barricade in front of a single monitor, placed in the corner of a room behind an overturned table. On the walls hang sixty-four small black-and-white portrait photographs of black women from different social backgrounds that Adrian Piper rephotographed from Ebony magazine. Piper herself—whose light skin confounds traditional assumptions of race—appears on the corner monitor, addressing the audience with a seventeen-minute monologue on the logic of miscegenation. According to conventions of racial classification and genetic statistics, she notes, many of her "white" viewers could be considered "black." Midway through this clearly reasoned talk, the other monitors are activated in rapid succession: sixteen different figures, all apparently white, appear on the screens and repeat the following phrase, which is also printed on their faces: "Some of my female ancestors were so-called 'house niggers' who were raped by their white slave masters. If you are an American, some of yours probably were too." Piper’s directness implicates the viewer, encouraging us to confront the question that drives much of her work: how are race and racism inherently social phenomena that might be evaluated, even transformed, through rational analysis and critical self-awareness?