Act Like You Know Me
September 24 – November 13, 2022
Kunstverein München presents the first comprehensive solo exhibition of the artist Pippa Garner in Europe which offers a necessarily fragmentary insight into an incredibly extensive body of work spanning more than 50 years.
Born in 1942 in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, the U.S.-American artist and author formerly known as Philip Garner, is pushing back against systems of consumerism, marketing, and waste and has created a dense body of work including drawing, performance, sculpture, video, and installation over her five-decade-long career. Her uncompromising approach to life and practice has allowed her to interact with the worlds of illustration, editorial, television, and art without ever quite becoming beholden to them.
After serving in Vietnam as a combat artist, Garner began her practice in the 1960s when she was studying as a member of the highly regarded Transportation Design department at ArtCenter, California with plans to become a car stylist. Garner’s circle during the 1970s and 1980s included West Coast artists Ed Ruscha, Chris Burden, and the radical art and design collective Ant Farm. Garner (then identifying and known as Phil) gained attention for her performance, design, and video work at galleries and museums, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and appearances on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and other talk shows showcasing her satirical consumer product “inventions.” Her art has appeared in Car & Driver, Rolling Stone, Arts & Architecture, and Vogue, among other publications.
In 1984, Garner began a decade-long feminization process that included hormone replacement therapy and eventually sex reassignment surgery. As an extension of her practice altering materials of mass production, Garner’s approach to gender transition demonstrated her experimental attitude, transpersonal identity, prankish sense of humor, and way of queering everyday objects. When she first began hormone therapy there was no widespread concept of the in-betweens of gender, and no good terms for people who lived there. As she puts it, “You had to jump over the fence.” As the writer and author and co-curator of the exhibition at Kunstverein München, Fiona Duncan, says “Her work is about gender expansiveness and gender as a commodity, you can customise your body, inside and out, so long as you can afford to do so.”
The exhibition brings together a wild, extensive selection of photographs spanning her life in art that both have the status of autonomous works as well as documentation of her practice. Anti-materialist, most of Garner’s art objects were repurposed, recycled, or given away and lost, leaving these photographs as the central remaining documentation of the work.