Lecture by David Getsy

Please join us for a public lecture by Professor David Getsy, the HSS Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the Department of Drama at Queen Mary. It is the second event organised by Sexual Cultures Research Group

Title: ‘The Emotional Nature of the Number of Inches Between: Body Language, Sexuality, and Affectual Transfer in Scott Burton’s Behavior Tableaux of the 1970s’

26 April 2017, 6pm to 8pm
Arts Lecture Theatre, ArtsOne Building
Queen Mary University of London
Mile End Campus, London E1 4NS

The lecture is FREE to attend. No booking. The event will be followed by a drinks reception.

David Getsy is the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His books include Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (2015); Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965-1975 (2012); Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (2010); and, most recently, the collection of artists’ writings, Queer, for the Whitechapel Gallery’s ‘Documents of Contemporary Art’ book series (2016). His current major projects focus on queer and genderqueer performance art in the 1970s.


Throughout the 1970s, the artist-critic Scott Burton developed a mode of performance art that was unique amongst his peers. Called the Behavior Tableaux, these works participated in debates about theater’s role in contemporary art and were developed as a critical response to Minimalist art.  Performed at such venues as the Whitney Museum, Documenta, and the Guggenheim, the Behavior Tableaux fused elements of sculpture, theater, dance, and painting.  They catalogued scenes of interpersonal power dynamics and presented exchanges of desire, dominance, aggression, shame, and submission.  Burton developed these works from his study of the cybernetic literature on body language as well as his participatory observation of coded queer non-verbal communication, whether that be street cruising or in gay bathhouses.  This lecture will track the trilogy of Behavior Tableaux Burton created between 1972 and 1980 and discuss the ways in which sexuality became crucial to this critical response to the art theory supporting Minimalist sculpture and to this major contribution to the development of performance art in the 1970s.  In particular, a central question will be how Burton’s work was designed to transfer affect from performer to audience by manipulating the situation of viewing these silent, hour-long, and slowly moving performances. These works demonstrate how queer experience and politics became central to the definitions of postminimalism and, in Burton’s longer history, to public art.

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