Professor Gavin Butt was trained as an artist and art historian. Now he does research on art and performance that is both scholarly and creative, including writing books, curating public events and filmmaking.
- BA Art (Studio Practice)/ Art History - Goldsmiths, University of London
- MA Social History of Art - University of Leeds
- PhD Art History - University of Leeds
Areas of supervision
Professor Gavin Butt welcomes research proposals in the following fields: live art, performance art and club performance; any aspect of queer art and performance since 1945; performance studies and queer theory; and pop culture and performance. He supervises both traditional scholarly approaches to these subjects (historical and theoretical) and practice-as-research projects by artist-scholars.
He has recently supervised dissertations on television documentary and transgender lives; embarrassment and contemporary art; new ecologies and live art; 'trashy' tendencies in contemporary performance; queer club performance in London and affective space; temporality and queer activist aesthetics; schizoanalysis and performance art; injury and queer performance; performative approaches to Central and East European action art; shame and commemorative practice in contemporary British art; and real-time media and contemporary art. He currently supervises projects on feminist performance art and self-help culture; and video and feminist performativity.
Trained as an artist and art historian, his research work has now broadened and encompasses work across the intersecting areas of performance studies, queer studies, and visual culture. Much of his work concerns a rethinking of the value of objects, events and knowledges deemed unworthy by so-called serious discourses of criticism and scholarship.
Professor Gavin Butt is currently completing a book entitled 'Anti-Gravitas: Queering the Serious in Art and Performance'. The book explores the challenges to seriousness presented within queer / feminist art and performance. It promises to be the first to theorise the thrall to seriousness in academic and critical culture, and considers creative work across the high arts and popular genres which troubles the hold that cultural seriousness has upon issues of value and importance. The book focuses upon lineages of trash and camp in post-war Anglo-American culture, and considers the power of performance to create novel publics across old divides of 'high' and 'low' culture. It includes perspectives on the work of David Hoyle, Oreet Ashery, Kiki and Herb, Bird La Bird, Mel Brimfield, Charles Ludlam, Andy Warhol, Joe Brainard, Jason Holiday and Shirley Clarke.
He is also currently researching a cultural history project, provisionally entitled The Post-Punk Experiment, exploring the relationship between Leeds artschools in the 1970s and 1980s and the post-punk music scene which sprang up in and around them. The project explores the particularities of the cultural life of the city of Leeds at this time to enquire into the intimate relations between experimental art forms, including performance and conceptual art, and the making of popular music in the wake of punk rock. It reappraises the importance of the post-punk moment in refashioning the popular imaginary through the migration of avant-garde and experimental forms into mass culture. It is also a case study of the radical potential of higher education at a time when access to art school and university was free to all.
He recently made his first feature length documentary film, co-directed with journalist Ben Walters. This is Not a Dream tells a hitherto untold story of artist’s DIY use of moving image technology including original interviews with Vaginal Davis, Dara Birnbaum, David Hoyle, Kalup Linzy, Holestar, Nao Bustamante, Dickie Beau and others. Trailer: This is Not a Dream
Professor Gavin Butt is also the co-director of Performance Matters, a four-year creative research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Bringing together artists, curators, activists, performance organizers, and academics to investigate the cultural value of performance, the project was a collaboration between Goldsmiths, Roehampton University and the Live Art Development Agency. He was lead curator in the second themed year of the project, Trashing Performance. A DVD series, Crossovers, is now available for purchase delivering Performance Matters film and video research to broader media publics: Crossovers.
His earlier monograph explored gossip and homosexuality in the New York art world (Between You and Me, 2005) and focused on the role of unofficial testimony in the production of queer art history. My edited collection After Criticism (2004) brought together writings by contemporary artists and academics which variously foregrounded the creative and performative possibilities of critical response.
Interview: Mathias Danbolt, 'Dismantling the Serious Machine: An Interview with Gavin Butt'.
Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World 1948-1963
Butt, Gavin. 2005. Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World 1948-1963. Duke University Press. ISBN 0822334984
After Criticism: New Responses to Art and Performance (Chinese edition)
Butt, Gavin, ed. 2008. After Criticism: New Responses to Art and Performance (Chinese edition). Jiangsu, China: Jiangsu Fine Arts Publishing House. ISBN 9787534422409
After Criticism: New Responses to Art and Performance
Butt, Gavin, ed. 2005. After Criticism: New Responses to Art and Performance. Blackwell. ISBN 9780631232834
Living the Dream in Women in Revolt
Butt, Gavin. 2013. Living the Dream in Women in Revolt. In: Glyn Davis and Gary Needham, eds. Warhol in Ten Takes. London: British Film Institute and Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 180-194. ISBN 9781844574025
Bodies of Evidence: Queering Disclosure in the Art of Jasper Johns
Butt, Gavin. 2010. Bodies of Evidence: Queering Disclosure in the Art of Jasper Johns. In: Amy K. Levin, ed. Gender, Sexuality, and Museums. Oxford & New York: Routledge, pp. 235-252. ISBN 0415554918
Should we take Performance Seriously?
Butt, Gavin. 2009. Should we take Performance Seriously? In: , ed. Oreet Ashery: Dancing with Men. London: Live Art Development Agency, pp. 78-92. ISBN 9780954604097
Stop that Acting!: Performance and Authenticity in Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason
Butt, Gavin. 2007. Stop that Acting!: Performance and Authenticity in Shirley Clarke's Portrait of Jason. In: K. Mercer, ed. Pop Art and Vernacular Cultures. MIT Press / InIVA, pp. 36-55. ISBN 9781899846443
Joe Brainard's Queer Seriousness, or, How to Make Fun out of the Avant-Garde
Butt, Gavin. 2006. Joe Brainard's Queer Seriousness, or, How to Make Fun out of the Avant-Garde. In: David Hopkins, ed. Neo-avant-garde (Avant Garde Critical Studies). Rodopi, pp. 277-297. ISBN 978-9042021259
"America" and its Discontents: Art and Politics 1945-1960
Butt, Gavin. 2006. "America" and its Discontents: Art and Politics 1945-1960. In: Amelia Jones, ed. A Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945. Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-0794-5
Avant-Garde et Chic: Andy Warhol et la fabrique du dandy Américain
Butt, Gavin. 2005. Avant-Garde et Chic: Andy Warhol et la fabrique du dandy Américain. In: Matthias Waschek and Veerle Thielemans, eds. L’Art Américain: Identités d’une Nation. Louvre/Terra Foundation, pp. 142-157. ISBN 978-2840561651
The Greatest Homosexual? Camp Pleasure and the Performative Body of Larry Rivers’
Butt, Gavin. 1999. The Greatest Homosexual? Camp Pleasure and the Performative Body of Larry Rivers’. In: Amelia Jones and Andrew Stephenson, eds. Performing the Body/ Performing the Text. Routledge, pp. 107-126. ISBN 9780415190602
How New York Queered the Idea of Modern Art
Butt, Gavin. How New York Queered the Idea of Modern Art. In: Paul Wood, ed. Varieties of Modernism. Open University/Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300102963
Happenings in History, or, The Epistemology of the Memoir
Butt, Gavin. 2001. Happenings in History, or, The Epistemology of the Memoir. Oxford Art Journal, 24(2), pp. 113-126. ISSN 01426540