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KEITH PIPER - Born Malta, 1960. Lives and works in London

Keith Piper, Transgressive Acts, 1993 (2)

"Identity is not in the past to be found, but in the future to be constructed." Stuart Hall

Since the 80's, Keith Piper has made issue-based work in a range of media from painting and sculpture to printing and photography. From the early 90's he has been developing his practice in the area of digital arts and multimedia and it is in this field that he is now one of Britains' foremost practitioners.

Piper explores the various meanings and cultural positions for Black people in Britain today, particularly the Black male. At a time when young Black men are disproportionately present in the number of school exclusions and young offenders, Piper examines issues of representation and explores the roots of prejudice in post-colonial British society. He looks at the limited roles 'offered to' or imposed upon Black men, currently as well as historically, particularly in the fields of sport and science. Piper is keen to expose issues of power and control, for example he draws our attention (as spectators) to how we view, glorify and condemn our sporting heroes. As the voice on the soundtrack of 'Another Arena' (1997) says: "We acknowledge your genius but struggle with the idea that it could be a genius of discipline."

By using digital media, Piper is able to draw upon, combine and reconfigure a whole range of sources, from colonial history and ethnographic archives, to recent popular music and media clips. The results are multilayered pieces which highlight the constructed nature of history, identity and belief. In his installation work, he places the computer pieces within a situation - inside the ropes of a boxing ring; on the shelves of a museum archive - providing a context for these constructed meanings.

The juxtaposition of images and sounds can be ambiguous and allow for a number of responses or interpretations by the viewer but at the same time, Piper often employs an editorial voice in the form of text or voice-over, which directly challenges our assumptions or complacency.

'Transgressive Acts' is a piece which looks at a number of key Black figures in the history of boxing to see how they have conformed to or transgressed their defined positions. In each case the individual has been transformed into an archetypal figure whose mythical status has been created or destroyed in and by the public eye.

"By evoking the personas of various boxing icons, Piper exposes the roped-off canvas square as a site of political struggle where identities and visibilities are contested." Rohini Malik

Keith Piper, Transgressive Acts, 1993 (3)


Keith Piper uses multimedia to construct complex images or audiovisual works, which examine and question what it means to be Black and British.

  • Do you see yourself and your experiences reflected in any contemporary art or culture? Who do you identify with? What do you aspire to? Are there places where you feel you don't belong?... Using cut and past techniques could you 'put yourself in the picture' - include yourself in an image (photograph or painting) of a place or situation where you would like to be. You could include several different versions of yourself.

Keith Piper with Derek Richards, Seven Stories from Permanent Revolution on 'Relocating The Remains' CD-Rom, 1997 (4)

  • What would you make, inspired by this artist's work?
  • If your life had a soundtrack, what would it be like?


The images on this page are taken from the monograph and CD-Rom 'Relocating the Remains', published by inIVA. In this CD Piper has 'remixed' and re-created much of his older work into this new digital format. You can see more of Piper's work this website: