Peter Hill - Artist Statement
Peter Hill is an interdisciplinary artist with a research-based practice, working in performance, drawing, object-making, and installation. A student of both economics and art, he uses art to propose, challenge, and recontextualize economic principles. Rather than attempting to reconcile their seeming incompatibility, he approaches art and economy as agencements, two heterogeneous entities continuously adjusting to one another.
The Market-19, formerly The Market, is a multimedia response to the far-reaching economic consequences of COVID-19. The Market-19 first considers the space itself as a physical manifestation of the conceptual economy. It references “the white cube,” the minimal, white aesthetic that dominated Modernist art galleries in the 20th century. The white cube made it easier to commodify artwork because of its visual isolation. The Market-19 reimagines the white cube in the 21st century—with barcodes in lieu of white walls and as a commodity itself.
The Market-19 treats the novel coronavirus as a resource, literally being pumped into the space, that drastically changes society and the economy—akin to the Agent Orange chemical used in the Vietnam War. Orange, a color connoting caution and hazard, appears throughout the performances as a motif for the coronavirus.
The Market-19 considers the development of the individual as part of, and in response to, the current shifting economy. The individual is articulated by three constructed selves: the real self, the commodified self, and the aware self. Each unique self responds to different, specific needs of the market and they collectively constitute the individual. These selves engage in transformations of objects that explore relevant economic concepts such as fundamental value, behaviorism, and scarcity. Through these performative transformations, the objects inform each of the selves just as the selves inform the objects, and a feedback loop is formed—capturing the agencement between them.
In one performance, the real self is weaving a quilt made of receipts that were shredded, mixed, and glued back together into threads. Receipts are mundane economic debris, but also perfect indexical records of one’s financial existence. By physically deconstructing and then reconstructing these records into an archetypal, sentimental object, the receipts capture the human experience of these transactions. A single orange thread interrupts the production of the quilt, referencing the pandemic’s simultaneous suspension of economic production and social experience.
After lauding and then recanting the value of graphite-rendered gemstones and precious metals, the aware self carves a pair of earrings out of the drawing in another performance. Though the drawing represents fundamentally valuable materials, it has no worth until it becomes a wearable commodity. Then, the earrings are burned in an orange toaster—their value destroyed by the contracting economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Value is constructed, dependent, and volatile.
Instructed by the aware self in an Instagram-Live video, a format popularized by social distancing practices, the commodified self performs a dance. The movements are interpretations of economic models, theories, and practices. Though economics is typically considered a discipline describing economic behavior, it is also a means to coordinate economic behavior. It’s beneficial if everyone acts according to a common set of beliefs, regardless if those beliefs are true or not.
Every object is documented both before and after these performances. Due to the qualities of the coronavirus, objects have become dangerous vehicles of transmission. Therefore, our relationship to them has changed. In the documentation, each object is framed by orange string and wet orange oil paint—representing our arbitrary, constructed boundaries and the actual, invisible danger, respectively. These objects are captured in just one stage of their innumerable transformations, just as is the individual.