Receipt of Delivery: Funk Lessons with Adrian Piper

Receipt of Delivery is a weekly series featuring Bay Area exhibition mailers selected from the SFMOMA Research Library’s collection of artists’ ephemera.

Adrian Piper staged a number of collaborative performance events entitled Funk Lessons (1982–84) in which participants were invited to get down and party together. In the process of learning to discuss, dance, and listen to funk music, the events opened up individual awareness of the complex personal associations of this popular dance form with racial and cultural boundaries. The experience held the possibility of overcoming inhibitions. Piper was living in Menlo Park in 1982–84 on a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Stanford University. In the Bay Area, Funk Lessons were hosted at UC Berkeley (November 1983, videotape), the San Francisco Art Institute (February 1984), and New Langton Arts (1975–2009), San Francisco (March 1984).


Adrian Piper, Funk Lessons Direct Mail Advertisement, 1983; gold-embossed invitation card; 8 3/4 x 5 3/4 in. (22.2 x 14.6 cm); Collection of the Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin; © APRA Foundation Berlin [image of card from SFMOMA Research Library]

Adrian Piper, Funk Lessons with Adrian Piper (Bootsy Poster), 1984; poster advertisement for Adrian Piper’s Funk Lessons Performance on Friday, March 23, 1984, at New Langton Arts, San Francisco; 18 x 24 in. (46.5 x 61.5 cm); Collection of the Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin; © APRA Foundation Berlin; photo: Phillip Dixon. [quarter-folded poster copy in SFMOMA Research Library]

“The ‘Lessons’ format during this process became ever more clearly a kind of didactic foil for collaboration: Dialogue quickly replaced pseudo-academic lecture/demonstration, and social union replaced the audience-performer separation. What I purported to ‘teach’ my audience was revealed to be a kind of fundamental sensory ‘knowledge’ that everyone has and can use.” —Adrian Piper, from “Notes on Funk I” (1985), Out of Order, Out of Sight, Volume 1, Selected Writings in Meta-Art, 1968–92, p. 131

Adrian Piper, Funk Lessons, 1984; postcard advertisement for Adrian Piper’s Funk Lessons performance on Sunday, March 3, 1984, at the Woman’s Building, Los Angeles; 5 x 7 in. (12.7 x 17.78 cm); Collection of the Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin; © APRA Foundation Berlin. [image of card from SFMOMA Reseach Library]

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