Funk Lessons

video still
© Collection Adrian Piper Research Archive

The video Funk Lessons documents one of several large-scale performances, carried out between 1982 and 1984, in which Adrian Piper introduced a group of white participants to black funk music. Since the early 1970s, funk developed as a specific cultural idiom within black culture and represents a form of collective expression that has its roots in African tribal music and is the result of the Afro-American population’s interest in its origins roused by the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Piper explained the basic dance movements to the audience, their historical background and the role they play in black culture. The participants were then asked to adapt the movements individually and to explore the structural characteristics of funk music while dancing. Piper called this imparting of a physical language listening by dancing. In the Funk Lessons, music and dance served as tools that were used in a participatory ritual to deconstruct stereotypical ideas of whites about black culture.



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