Robert Peters

Professor, Visual Arts

Robert Peters' art works often explore how language and other institutional structures shape perception and experience. He sees his artistic practice as a series of meditations on how consciousness is molded by the shared societal limitations and structures that give meaning to everything from the simplest gesture to the most complicated moral propositions.

These interests have been explored through a variety of forms: installations, performances, artist's books, drawings, and audio works. The subject and site of execution of a work are important in deciding its form. He prefers venues that are not entirely "art determined," in these circumstances the work can more easily nibble at the often rigid partition separating artistic activity from other pursuits. Physically the works are a collage of invented elements and elements drawn directly from the culture; these elements may be objects, images, fragments of text and sound, etc. Experientially the works teeter between being indistinguishable extensions of their physical "environments" and improbable re-enactments of the social underpinnings of those "environments"; the viewer is placed simultaneously inside and outside the subject. This duality is often established by using interactive elements in the work; in a number of performances such elements have been pivotal in determining the event's direction or outcome.

Peters has often collaborated and his collaborators have often been non-artists: historians, decorators, anthropologists, economists, magicians, critics, architects, etc. For Peters the logic of that collaboration is twofold: first, the greater the diversity of input, the broader the possible scope of the resultant work; and second, the weaker the ties to the conventions of art, the greater the possibility of closing the gap between "art" and "life."

He has exhibited widely and is currently preparing for an exhibition at Chiang Mai University Art Museum and also collaborating with Thai and other artists on a project outside Chiang Mai. He has received numerous awards, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Lila-Wallace Reader's Digest Foundation (an International Arts Award to Indonesia). His pursuit of his art interests came after an initial education in science and a brief career as a biometrician with the U.S. Forest Service.