The Hypothesis Series (1968-69)

The Hypothesis series (1968-1969) was first exhibited in the group show curated by Joseph Kosuth, Conceptual Art and Conceptual Aspects (1970), and was withdrawn from that exhibition in protest against Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the shooting of students at Kent State and Jackson State Universities. It marks the moment of transition in my work from “pure” first-generation Conceptual Art to performance/new genres.

Before this series, my preoccupation with the grid as a coordinate system for locating infinite numbers of points in space and time found expression in wall works, floor sculptures, and page works using maps, graph paper and/or texts with indexical language and infinite arithmetic progressions or linguistic permutations. In these works the perspective is distanced, but unmediated by considerations of subjectivity or perceptual limitation; it is a fixed Naïve Realist perspective, in which the viewer’s eyes are windows onto the infinitesimal and unbounded dimensions of reality I am investigating.

By contrast, the Hypothesis series acknowledges the perspectival character of human perception, by charting and documenting my navigation through space and time as myself a moving or stationary object with the capacity for sensory perception and the ability to self-consciously register those perspectival perceptions at fixed intervals. Thus the shift in perspective that characterizes this project implicitly introduces issues of subjectivity, personal identity, self-knowledge, self-objectification and difference that I then confront directly in the later Catalysis and Mythic Being series of the early 1970s.

Each work in the Hypothesis series contains certain constants: the series of photographs documenting my own spatiotemporal passage through a situation; the grid system that locates that passage at its series of space-time coordinates; the accompanying legend that lists and describes the intervals; and the accompanying short essay that explains the underlying philosophy of this work, that space and time are forms of perception that condition consciousness relative to circumstance (it was this essay that led a philosopher friend to recommend that I read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and so to my decision to study philosophy in earnest). Specific to each work is the actual situation or context I am registering: meditating, eating breakfast, reading the New York Review of Books, walking around a chair or through my loft, taking a walk outside, interacting with a colleague at the employment agency where I was working, watching television, etc.

Hypothesis: Situation #14(1969; graph paper, B&W photographs, ink diagrams, vintage mimeographed form with typescript text, vintage photo offset two-page essay). [Time is variable, space is variable: I interact with Sandy Livingston at the Cameo Employment Agency while she is doing her job and having lunch at her desk].

In this particular work in the Hypothesis series, I map my own movement through space and time relative to that of a colleague, Sandy Livingston, at the Cameo Employment Agency where she worked as a full-time receptionist and I worked as a part-time bookkeeper. I devoted this work to Sandy’s passage through space and time relative to mine because I admired her. She was a divorced single mother who worked full time to support her son. She was of Italian heritage but once told me she had married her husband, Wesley Livingston, because she thought her son would do better in America with a last name like “Livingston” than with a last name like “Colluccio.” She worked very hard, obsessed constantly about her son and about remarrying in order to give him a father, and had an earthy sense of humor about her own situation. This was my first feminist work of art.

© Adrian Piper Research Archive 2006