Professor Dominic Johnson, BA (Warw) MA PhD (Lon) FHEA
Professor of Performance and Visual Culture | Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes (Drama)
I joined the Department of Drama at Queen Mary in 2006 after completing a PhD in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
I write about performance art and live art – experimental forms of performance that do away with many of the formal conventions of theatre – and I focus especially on artists whose work has tended to be marginalised in institutional and critical histories of art and performance. I have published books and chapters on performance art and live art in relation to such varied themes and problems as extremity and endurance, censorship, HIV/AIDS, intimacy, and pornography. More broadly, I write about visual art, including through art criticism published in periodicals such as Art Monthly. My commitment to public engagement includes working with artists, especially through advocacy, curating, and collaborative book projects.
In partnership with the Live Art Development Agency, I co-designed and convene MA Live Art – the first programme of its kind in the UK.
In 2019/20 I teach on:
- DRA121 Beyond Acting
- DRA266 Performance Art in the 1970s
- DRA362 Live Art: Then and Now
In 2019/20 I teach on:
- DRA7103 Research Design
- DRA7712 Live Art Histories
- Performance art and live art after 1960
- Performance in and as visual culture
- Archives, oral history and historiography of performance art
- Contemporary queer and LGBT performance and visual studies
Recent and On-Going Research:
My research is generally artist-focused, and is always concerned with the cultural politics and historiography of experimental and/or marginal cultural practices, including (but not limited to) contemporary performance. My most recent publications are: an authored book Unlimited Action: The Performance of Extremity in the 1970s, published in 2019; and an edited book on the late Adrian Howells — It’s All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells (with Deirdre Heddon), published in 2016. In 2015 I published an oral history of performance art, constituted by 12 long interviews with iconic artists working at the vital limits of performance, including Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, the Kipper Kids, Anne Bean, Ulay, Sheree Rose, and Ann Magnuson. Prior to that, I published books on Ron Athey, Franko B, and Manuel Vason, as well as other topics.
In 2014 I was awarded the TaPRA Early Career Research Award, an annual research prize from the Theatre and Performance Research Association (UK). In 2014, I was also awarded a Fellowship (Early Career scheme) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to work on a new research project for 24 months from September 2014. In 2018, Deirdre Heddon and I received the TaPRA Editing Prize for our co-edited book on Adrian Howells.
I was the Global Visiting Scholar in the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (with Department of Performance Studies), New York University (NYU), New York (January to April 2016); and Scholar in Residence and AHRC Honorary Visiting Fellow in the Department of English and QueerLab Research Center, University of California Riverside, (January to March 2015).
I regularly publish and present research on live art in the UK. I was guest-editor of a special issue of Contemporary Theatre Review on ‘Live Art in the UK’ (2012), which includes articles on major figures in the field, interviews, and artists’ pages; it was subsequently republished in an revised and expanded version as Critical Live Art: Contemporary Histories of Performance in the UK (2013), with a new foreword by Carolee Schneemann. I have published four edited books on major individual artists: Franko B (2006), Manuel Vason (2007), Ron Athey (2013) and Adrian Howells (2016).
I have published extensively on aspects of visual culture, including: essays on and interviews with artists; contributions to exhibition catalogues and artists’ books; and a short book, Theatre & the Visual (2012), which explores the contingency of visual experience in historical and contemporary theatre and performance.
My research has been funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Terra Foundation for American Art, and Arts Council England.
I am a founder member of the Sexual Cultures Research Group in the School of English and Drama, which actively fosters and develops cross-disciplinary conversations about methodologies, cultures, texts and objects and research outputs related to sexuality, gender, identity, and both intimate and public cultures.
- Unlimited Action: The Performance of Extremity in the 1970s (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2019).
- The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2015).
- Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture, Series: Rethinking Art’s Histories (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2012).
- Theatre & the Visual, with a foreword by Del LaGrace Volcano, Series: Theatre& (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
- (Editor — with Deirdre Heddon), It’s All Allowed: The Performances of Adrian Howells (Series: Intellect Live) Bristol and London: Intellect and Live Art Development Agency, 2016).
- (Editor), Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey, Foreword by Antony Hegarty (Bristol and London: Intellect and Live Art Development Agency, 2013).
- (Editor), Critical Live Art: Contemporary Histories of Performance in the UK, Foreword by Carolee Schneemann (London and New York: Routledge, 2013).
- (Editor), Manuel Vason: Encounters – Performance, Photography, Collaboration (Bristol: Arnolfini, 2007).
- (Editor), Franko B: Blinded by Love (Bologna: Damiani, 2006).
- (with Maria M. Delgado, Aoife Monks, and Lara Shalson), Contemporary Theatre Review, Special issue: Alphabet: A Lexicon of Theatre and Performance, 23.1 (2013)
- Contemporary Theatre Review, Special Issue: Live Art in the UK, 22.1 (2012).
Selected Chapters in Peer-Reviewed Books
- ‘The Gold Standard: The Performances of Franko B’, in Live Art in the UK: Contemporary Performances of Precarity, ed. by Maria Chatzichristodoulou (London: Methuen Drama, 2020), 89-104.
- ‘Dead Star Mileage: Jack Smith’s Fandom for Maria Montez’ in Fandom as Methodology: A Sourcebook for Artists and Writers, ed. by Catherine Grant and Kate Random Love (London: Goldsmiths University Press, 2019), pp. 65-82.
- ‘Those Who Have Suffered Understand Suffering: Notes on the Body (in Pain)’, in Agency: A Partial History of Live Art, ed. by Theron Schmidt (London and Bristol: Live Art Development Agency and Intellect, 2019), pp. 45-56.
- ‘How Does Performance Disrupt Institutional Spaces?’ in Thinking Through Theatre and Performance, ed. by Maaike Bleeker, Adrian Kear, Joe Kelleher and Heike Roms (London: Bloomsbury Methuen, 2019), pp. 243-56.
- ‘Impossible Things: The Life Art of Anne Bean in the 1970s’, in Anne Bean: Self Etc., by Rob La Frenais (Bristol and London: Intellect and Live Art Development Agency, 2018), pp. 24-53.
- ‘File Under COUM: Art on Trial in Genesis P-Orridge’s Mail Action’, in London Art Worlds, 1960-1980, ed. by Jo Applin, Catherine Spencer and Amy Tobin (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2018), pp. 183-99.
- ‘Transition Pieces: The Photography of Del LaGrace Volcano’, in Otherwise: Imagining Queer Feminist Art Histories, ed. by Amelia Jones and Erin Silver, Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, pp. 340-55.
- ‘Intimacy and Risk in Live Art’, in Histories and Practices of Live Art in the UK, ed. by Dee Heddon and Jennie Klein (Houndsmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 122-48.
- ‘Ecstatic Intervals: Performance in a Continuum of Intimacy’, in Intimacy: Across Visceral and Digital Performance, ed. by Maria Chatzichristodoulou and Rachel Zerihan (Houndsmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 89-101.
- ‘Psychic Weight: The Pains and Pleasures of Performance’, in ORLAN: A Hybrid Body of Artworks, ed. by Simon Donger with Simon Shepherd and ORLAN (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2010), pp. 84-99.
Selected Peer-Reviewed Articles in Journals
- ‘Naked Hitchhikers: The Unknown Photography of William A. Rhoads’, Porn Studies, 4.1 (2017): 67-87.
- ‘Modern Death: Jack Smith, Paul Thek, Fred Herko’, in Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 56.2 (2014): Special Issue: Jack Smith, pp. 211-234.
- ‘Introduction: The What, Where and When of Live Art’, in Contemporary Theatre Review, Special Issue: Live Art in the UK, 22.1 (2012), pp. 1-16.
- ‘Ron Athey’s Visions of Excess: Performance After Georges Bataille’, in Papers of Surrealism: The Journal of the Centre for Studies of Surrealism and its Legacies 8 (2010), pp. 1-12.
- ‘Jack Smith’s Rehearsals For the Destruction of Atlantis: Exotic Ritual and Apocalyptic Tone’, in Contemporary Theatre Review 19.2 (2009), pp. 164-80.
- ‘The Wound Kept Open: Jack Smith, Queer Performance and Cultural Failure’, in Women and Performance 16.4 (2007), pp. 3-18.
Selected Interviews in Journals and Books
- ‘“Personality Crisis? Honey, I was Born with One”: Lydia Lunch Interviewed’, in Post Punk: Then and Now, ed. by Gavin Butt, Kodwo Eshun and Mark Fisher, London: Repeater Books, pp. 25-56.
- ‘The Subtle Aggressors: An Interview with Julia Bardsley and Simon Vincenzi’, in Return, Rewrite, Revisit: Theatre and Adaptation, ed. by Margherita Laera (London: Methuen, 2014).
- ‘The Kindness of Strangers: An Interview with Adrian Howells’, in Performing Ethos: An International Journal of Ethics in Theatre and Performance, 3.2 (2014): Special Issue: One-on-One Encounters: Desire, Reciprocity and Ethics, pp. 173-90.
- ‘Carrying Her Liver in a Shopping Cart (And Other Bohemian Notions): An Interview with Bruce Benderson’, in Social Text 114, 31.1 (2013), pp. 107-25.
- ‘Positive Surrender: An Interview with Breyer P-Orridge’, in Contemporary Theatre Review, Special Issue: Live Art in the UK, 22.1 (2012), pp. 134-45.
- ‘The Skin of the Theatre: An Interview with Julia Bardsley’ in Contemporary Theatre Review 20.3 (2010), pp. 340-52.
- ‘Perverse Martyrologies: An Interview with Ron Athey’ in Contemporary Theatre Review 18.4 (2008), pp. 503-13.
I welcome applications from prospective research students, especially those interested in histories and theories of live art and performance art; LGBT and queer cultures; and relations between performance and visual art. Prospective students with an investment in practice-based research are also welcome to apply.
I am currently supervising doctoral research projects on: the art of Leigh Bowery; self-injury in performance art; Black feminist performance art; performance art in Ukraine and Russia; the performance of extremity in post-dictatorship Chile; and the riserva of Italian multimedia artist Emanuele Balzani.
I have recently supervised the following successful projects:
- Lewis Church, ‘No Discipline: The Post-Punk Polymath in Contemporary Art’ (2017)
- Eleanor Roberts, ‘The Third Space: A Feminist Reading of Performance Art at the ICA, London, 1968-1980’ (2016)
- Lauren Barri Holstein, ‘‘The Agency of The Displayed Female Body: The Political Potential of Negative Affects in Contemporary Feminism and Performance’ (2016)
- Daniel Oliver, ‘The Social Turn: Engagement and Efficiency in Contemporary Performance’ (2016)
- Harriet Curtis, ‘Blood and Ketchup: Documents, institutions and Effects in the Performances of Paul McCarthy 1974-2013' (2014)
- Saini Manninen, 'Duration Materialised: Investigating Contemporary Performance as a Temporal Medium', co-supervised with Nicholas Ridout (2014)
- Helena Walsh, 'Irish Femininity and the Live Body: Between Rebellion and Conformity, Negation and Reproduction' (2013), co-supervised with Caoimhe McAvinchey
- Eirini Kartsaki, 'Repeat Repeat: Repetition in Performance' co-supervised with Nicholas Ridout (2010)
I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Live Art Development Agency (LADA: a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England). With LADA, I co-edit ‘Intellect Live’, a series of books on artists working at the thresholds of performance, which has so far published monographs on the work of Raimund Hoghe, Ron Athey, Lois Weaver, Adrian Howells, Kira O’Reilly, Anne Bean, and Joshua Sofaer (the series is co-published by LADA and Intellect Books).
I have curated several large-scale public events, including: a one-day symposium called Unlimited Action: Limits of Performance at Whitechapel Gallery, with Ulay, Anne Bean, and Nigel Rolfe; a series of artists’ residencies and a symposium on performance and politics in the 1970s, also at Whitechapel Gallery (with Nicholas Ridout, in collaboration with Acme Studios, Live Art development Agency, and Matts Gallery, 2015); an 18-month festival of performance art at QMUL (with Lois Weaver, 2010), and a retrospective of and symposium on the films of Jack Smith at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (with Matt Williams and LUX, ICA, 2011).
I have presented solo and collaborative performances both nationally and internationally. My performance solo Transmission was presented more than twenty times between 2007 and 2011, at festivals including Fierce (Birmingham), National Review of Live Art (Glasgow), Queer Zagreb (Croatia), Visions of Excess at SPILL Festival (London), International Festival of Performance (Copenhagen), Commitment Issues (Toronto) and as part of Gay Icons at the National Portrait Gallery (London). I collaborated on two performances with Ron Athey: Incorruptible Flesh (Perpetual Wound) was co-commissioned by Chelsea Theatre (London) and Fierce (Birmingham) and presented at both festivals in 2006 and 2007; a subsequent piece, Self-Obliteration Double Bill, was performed at Souterrain Porte IV: Monstres (Maxéville), 2007) and Donaufestival (Krems, 2008). I have also performed extensively in clubs, including at Duckie (2008, 2009) and Torture Garden (London, 2007; Rome, 2008; Maxéville, 2009; and Edinburgh, 2010). My most recent practice-based research project was a series of performances involving live tattooing, which was funded by a Grant for the Arts from Arts Council England, and toured nationally in 2011-12.