Join Pioneer Works, Primary Information, and Art Omi for an extravagant evening—part tailgating party, part book launch—celebrating the release of $ELL YOUR $ELF (published by Pioneer Works Press and Art Omi) and Better Living Catalog (published by Primary Information) from visionary artist Pippa Garner at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. $ELL YOUR $ELF is the first publication to span Garner’s work from the 1960s to the present and Better Living Catalog is a facsimile publication of Garner’s 1982 cult classic.
A self-described “senior slut,” Garner’s lusty practice spans mail-order catalogs, classified ads, garments with cutouts, custom cars, tattoos (a red-and white bra, blue G-string crotch—pushed aside, ready for action—waistband stuffed with Monopoly money), and performances on the streets and on television. The evening will be filled with readings of smut (Garner’s classified ads from the 1990s) by Journey Streams, festivities around Garner’s latest work—a perverted Ford Ranger pickup truck replete with super-sized truck nuts, drinks, and special one-night-only performances by Morgan Bassichis, CHRISTEENE, Ron Athey, Justin Vivian Bond, and more.
Join us in celebrating Pippa Garner’s deviant solutions for tackling everyday problems.
Pioneer Works 159 Pioneer Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
$ELL YOUR $ELF is a kaleidoscopic survey of the work and life of visionary artist Pippa Garner, from the 1960s to the present. Bringing together Garner’s most iconic projects for the first time, this richly illustrated monograph features her work in gender hacking, custom cars, and deviant proposals to solve everyday problems. Produced on the occasion of Pippa Garner’s first institutional solo exhibition in New York, the publication features never-before-published materials from Garner’s archive, including drawings, garments, classified ads, and her own writing, with personal accounts of her gender transition-as-performance. Featuring newly commissioned texts by Nayland Blake, Jackie Ess, House of Ladosha, Chip Lord, Ed Ruscha, and McKenzie Wark, this landmark book illuminates the vital legacies of this artist’s singular approach to addressing—and parodying—the contradictions of commodity fetishism from the 1960s to today.
Pippa Garner’s Better Living Catalog, originally published in 1982, takes the form of a mail order catalog featuring clever and whimsical inventions that parody consumer goods while simultaneously critiquing America’s obsession with ingenuity, efficiency, leisure, and comfort. These works, which were made as prototypes and photographed for the publication, take the form of improbable accessories, clothing, footwear, home appliances, and office gadgets.
For example, the “Reactiononometer,” a portable wristband, instantly measures social success, while the “Digital Diet Loafers” display the wearer’s weight with every step. If the “Munch-o-Matic” reduces deskwork interruptions by flinging a snack right into the user’s mouth, other items promise financial solvency (the controlled cash flow “Autowallet”), sustainable waste management, or mess-free companionship (the “Pet-a-Vision” TV console). The artist asserts that all of the products in the book are “absolute necessities for contemporary survival.”
The Better Living Catalog was a pop hit when it was published, earning Garner spots on nighttime TV talk shows and attention from magazines like Vogue and Rolling Stone. In a meme-filled culture, the works still resonate today, finding their analog in widely-circulating consumer products, and—in the case of the “High Heel Skates”—even appearing unattributed in the runway collection of a major luxury fashion brand.
A few years after the Better Living Catalog was published, Garner began her gender transition, which she has characterized as an artistic project that draws conceptual parallels to the altered consumer goods she has continued to create since the 1970s. The artist’s practice has always been about hacking—gender hacking, she stated, was “an excellent premise for maverick conceptual art and diametrically opposed to anything I’d ever done.”
Many of the prototypes Garner created for the publication were repurposed or recycled, making this previously rare gem of an artist book one of the artist’s few works to now be widely available.
About Pippa Garner
Originally trained as a car designer, Garner was kicked out of the ArtCenter College of Design’s transportation design program in 1969 for presenting a car morphing into a human body. Undeterred by her expulsion, Garner conceived of her first major car work in 1973, Backwards Car, a 1959 Chevy with its exterior rotated 180 degrees so it appeared to face the wrong way as it drove. In a gesture at once daredevil stunt and conceptual probe, Garner scaled San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in the work. She was finessing an important principle: how to follow the letter of the law while utterly defying it in spirit. Garner was not alone: her friends and collaborators during this period–including artists Ed Ruscha, Chris Burden, and the collective Ant Farm–used the automobile to interrogate the language of American commerce, machismo, and the slippery boundaries separating art and life.
In the mid-eighties, Garner began gender-hacking with hormones—a process that she considers a conceptual artwork—marking an extension of her practice from twenty years of altering cars, garments, and consumer products to using her own body as raw material. Much of her work has been in infiltrating mass media, from classified ads to the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. In the eighties, she released several artist books designed to impersonate mail order catalogs, including her most famous, the Better Living Catalog (1982). From the early aughts to the present, as Garner’s vision has waned, she has maintained a practice of producing a t-shirt a day, using iron-on letters to tinker with popular phrases in ways that reclaim their lusty potential and thumb her nose at assimilationist narratives.
Recent solo exhibitions include, Act Like You Know Me at Kunstverein Munich (2022), Kunsthalle Zúrich (2023), and FRAC Lorraine, Metz (2023); Immaculate Misconceptions at JOAN, Los Angeles (2021) and Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento (2022); The Bowels of the Mind at STARS, Los Angeles and Jeffrey Stark, New York (both 2021); and A Shadow of My Future Self at O-Town House, Los Angeles (2019). Her solo exhibition $ELL YOUR $ELF, on view at Art Omi through October 29, 2023, premieres her latest conceptual car Haulin’ Ass! (2023) and is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue co-published with Pioneer Works Press.
In collaboration with Art Omi, Pippa Garner: I’m With Me opens at OCD Chinatown on September 22, 2023: a tattoo parlor featuring queer/trans tattoo artists who have chosen texts and drawings by Garner to inject directly into the skin of her biggest fans, and sartorial fan art by fashion house Eckhaus Latta.
Her work will also be included in the Hammer’s Made in L.A., 2023 Biennial, Acts of Living, and the Yokohama Triennale, 2023. For its fourth stop, Act Like You Know Me will take place at White Columns in New York, NY from November 3-December 16, 2023; timed with the release of an accompanying monograph published by Bierke Books. Garner is the author of several books, including the Better Living Catalog (1982), Utopia … Or Bust! (1984), Garner’s Gizmos and Gadgets (1987), and Beauty 2000 (1992 / 2021).
About Pioneer Works
Pioneer Works is an artist and scientist-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit cultural center in Red Hook, Brooklyn that fosters innovative thinking through the visual and performing arts, technology, music, and science. We provide visual and performing artists, musicians, scientists, technologists, community organizers, and educators the resources and platform they need to expand their practices. Our approach encourages experimentation and empowers curious minds across diverse communities, knowledge bases, and frames of reference; in so doing, Pioneer Works aims to accelerate culture through the free exchange of ideas and information for all.
About Pioneer Works Press
Pioneer Works Press is our award-winning imprint, dedicated to supporting experimental and pathbreaking work from leading artists and writers in contemporary culture. Through our imprint, Pioneer Works Store, magazine, and programming, we aim to showcase and nurture the most urgent voices of our time.
About Primary Information
Primary Information is a non-profit organization founded in 2006 to publish artists’ books and artists’ writings. The organization’s programming advances the often-intertwined relationship between artists’ books and arts’ activism, creating a platform for historically marginalized artistic communities and practices. Primary Information facilitates intergenerational dialogue through the simultaneous publication of new and archival books, providing a new audience for out-of-print works and historical context for contemporary artists.