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Island Stories | Ameena Meer talks to Keith Piper

Article relating to an individual, 1992
Published by: Frieze
Year published: 1992
Number of pages: 4

image of Island Stories | Ameena Meer talks to Keith Piper

As the 1980s turned into the 1990s, evidence of Keith Piper’s continued status and significance as an artist was reflected in this piece in Frieze magazine (Issue 6, September - October 1992). The in-conversation piece took place between Piper and Ameena Meer, a writer of Indian background born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1964. Spread across three full pages, the text was accompanied by a dramatic full-page portrait of Piper taken by Anthony Oliver.

The interview was a wide-ranging one, reflecting both Meer’s empathetic and nuanced readings of Piper’s biography, politics, and art work, and Piper’s considered and engaging answers and responses to Meer’s questions and prompts.  References are made to  Piper’s exhibitions such as A Ship Called Jesus, Step Into the Arena, and Trophies of Empire. The last of these exhibitions, for which Piper was both co-curator and contributing artist, was taking place across several UK venues, at the time that this issue of Frieze was published. Throughout the interview, Piper made mention of a number of the artists with whom he emerged into practice and visibility - Sonia Boyce, Claudette Johnson, Donald Rodney, and Marlene Smith. [In references to artists of South Asian origin, Sutapa Biswas was mentioned, though her first name was misspelt as Sipta. Elsewhere, Muhammad Ali’s first name was misspelt as Mohammed.]

In a crafted and engaging series of exchanges, references are made to such culturally and politically significant factors, entitites, and considerations such as the Rodney King riots, Malcolm X, and the histories of Black people on both sides of the Atlantic. Along with passing references to a number of accomplished and prominent African American artists, readers also avail themselves of understandings of Piper’s newer ways of working, that tended to embrace then-new technologies such as the Amiga computer.

From the text. Meer: “How about segregation in terms of the art world here? In New York, there are about five Black, meaning African-American, Asian, South Asian, artists you see in mainstream galleries and I don’t count Jean-Michel Basquiat because he’s dead. So you’ve got Sam Gilliam, Renée Green, Fred Wilson, Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson, and Glen Ligon - who else? Is that the case here?”

Piper: “Once again, I’m not sure about the process by which those artists in the States come to that level of visibility. In terms of this country, it’s a very specific history. Black artists, from the 30s all the way to the 70s were seen as completely outside the modern mainstream, with just a few exceptions. From the early 80s, there was an upsurge of interest in the work of Black artists, but it was qualified. There was a specific interest in work which expressed a particular type of Black experience and identity, as opposed to an interest in work that was an integral part of the contemporary British art world.”

The text was accompanied with two illustrations (details) of Piper’s video installations. The Fire Next Time (part of A Ship Called Jesus), and Trade Winds (part of Trophies of Empire)

Related people - view 5

»  Jean-Michel Basquiat

Born, 1960 in Brooklyn. Died, 1988

»  Zarina Bhimji

Born, 1963 in Mbarara, Uganda

»  Sutapa Biswas

Born, 1962 in Bolpur, India

»  Sonia Boyce MBE OBE RA

Born, 1962 in London, England

»  Eddie Chambers

Born, 1960 in Wolverhampton, England

»  Allan deSouza

Born, 1958 in Nairobi, Kenya

»  Sam Gilliam

Born, 1933 in Tupelo, MS, USA

»  Renée Green

Born, 1959 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA

»  Gavin Jantjes

Born, 1948 in Cape Town, South Africa

»  Claudette Johnson

Born, 1959 in Manchester. England

»  Glenn Ligon

Born, 1960 in New York

»  Ameena Meer

Born, 1964 in Boston, USA

»  Adrian Piper

Born, 1948

»  Keith Piper

Born, 1960 in Malta

»  Donald Rodney

Born, 1961 in Birmingham, England. Died, 1998

»  Sankofa

»  Lorna Simpson

Born, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York, USA

»  Marlene Smith

Born, 1964 in Birmingham, England

»  Fred Wilson (b. 1954)

Born, 1954

Related exhibitions + view all 8

»  Trophies of Empire

Group show at The Bluecoat Gallery. 1992

»  Trophies of Empire

Group show at Ferens Art Gallery. 1992

»  Trophies of Empire

Group show at Baths Hall. 1992

»  Trophies of Empire - Arnolfini

Group show at Arnolfini. 1992 - 1993

Related venues + view all 8

»  The Bluecoat Gallery

Liverpool, United Kingdom

»  Ferens Art Gallery

Hull, United Kingdom

»  Ikon Gallery

Birmingham, United Kingdom

»  Merseyside Maritime Museum

Liverpool, United Kingdom

»  Wilberforce Museum

Hull, United Kingdom