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School of English and Drama

Professor Dominic Johnson, BA (Warw) MA PhD (Lon) FHEA


Professor of Performance and Visual Culture



Through writing and curating, I primarily research artists whose work has tended to be marginalised or stigmatised in institutional and critical histories of visual art and performance. My current research concerns the work of the British-Pakistani visual artist Hamad Butt, towards a major touring exhibition of his work that I'm curating, which will be accompanied by a catalogue; and a monograph about art and HIV/AIDS in the UK. In 2024-26 I will pursue these projects with a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust. 

I have published 4 authored books and 5 edited books. I have also published many articles and book chapters on  artists including, most recently: Reza Abdoh, Skip Arnold, Anne Bean, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, James Lee Byars, Charles Ray, Neil Bartlett, and others. My writing has explored visual art and performance in relation to such varied themes and topics as extremity and endurance, objecthood, abbreviated duration, censorship, war, HIV/AIDS, intimacy, and pornography.

From 2005 until 2012, I presented my own performances around the world in festivals, galleries, museums, theatres and clubs, a commune, a dungeon and a desert.

My research has been externally funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Fulbright US-UK Commission, Leverhulme Trust, Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art, Terra Foundation for American Art, and Arts Council England.

In 2024 I am Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Previously I was Global Visiting Scholar in the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality (with the 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).

From 2020 to 2023 I served as Head of the Department of Drama.

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 sexuality, gender, identity, and both intimate and public sexual cultures.

I am a member of the AHRC Peer Review College (2012-present); a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2016); a founding Friend of the Ulay Foundation (Slovenia/Netherlands); and an Editorial Associate of the peer-reviewed journal Contemporary Theatre Review.

Since 2017, I have collaborated with Queen Mary Archives to acquire for posterity the posthumous papers of significant artists working in and around Live Art whose work risks being lost, neglected, or obscured. To date we have acquired the papers of the performance artist Ian Hinchliffe (2017); the body modification artist Jon John (2018); the disabled artist and activist Katherine Araniello (2021); and Anthony Howell's extensive  collection pertaining to the pioneering British performance art ensemble of the 1970s and 1980s, The Theatre of Mistakes (2022).

Undergraduate Teaching

I am on research leave in the academic year 2024-25.

In previous years I have convened and/or taught a variety of modules including:

  • Beyond Acting
  • Culture Wars
  • Live Art: Then and Now
  • London/Archives/Documentation
  • Performance Art in the 1970s
  • Performance and Visual Culture
  • Theatre and its Others
  • Staging Countercultures
  • Writing About the Arts

  • Research Design (MA)
  • Live Art Histories (MA)
  • Theatre and Performance Theory (MA)


Research Interests:

  • Performance art and live art after 1960
  • Risk, threat, extinction and death
  • HIV/AIDS, resistance, desire and queer embodiment
  • The body and identity in contemporary art
  • Archives, oral history and historiography of art and performance
  • Contemporary queer and trans visual cultures

Recent and On-Going Research

My research is concerned with the cultural politics and historiography of experimental and/or marginal practices of art, including (but not limited to) contemporary performance. My current project involves curating a major touring exhibition titled Hamad Butt: Apprehensions, which will open at Irish Museum of Modern Art in December 2024 and tour to Whitechapel Gallery in Summer 2025. I am editing the exhibition catalogue, which will be published by Prestel and Whitechapel Gallery.

I am writing a monograph on the history of art and AIDS in the UK. Research towards this publication is supported by a 24-month Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust (2024-26).

I am the author of four monographs and the editor of five books. My most recent authored book is Unlimited Action: The Performance of Extremity in the 1970s, published in 2019, which seeks to provide a fresh account of the now-commonplace assertion that performance art engages with risk, difficulty, and endurance, by accounting critically for the way artists seek out, identify and strive to overcome limits. Unlimited Action was reviewed in Art Journal, Oxford Art Journal, Journal of Visual Culture, TDR, PAJ, Theatre Journal, Theatre Research International, and elsewhere.

I have published extensively on aspects of visual art and culture, including: essays on and interviews with artists; contributions to exhibition catalogues and artists’ books; interviews and artist profiles in magazines such as Art Monthly; and a short book, Theatre & the Visual (2012), which explores the contingency of visual experience in historical and contemporary theatre and performance.



Book cover image of Johnson's book Unlimited Action featuring a photograph of the Kipper Kids

Authored Books

Edited Books

Guest-edited journal issues

  • (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).

Chapters in Peer-Reviewed Books (Selected)

  • ‘Is Death Fast or Slow/Doctor Feelbad: Reza Abdoh’s Bogeyman’ in Reza Abdoh, ed. by Negar Azimi, Tiffany Malakooti and Michael C. Vazquez (Berlin: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2021), pp. 289-99. 
  • ‘Divine Fire: Ron Athey in Europe’, Queer Communion: Ron Athey, ed. by Andy Campbell and Amelia Jones (Bristol: Intellect, 2020), pp. 294-303.
  • ‘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?’ (on Christopher D'Arcangelo) 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, 2015), pp. 340-55.
  • ‘Intimacy and Risk in Live Art’, in Histories and Practices of Live Art in the UK, ed. by Deirdre 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.

Peer-Reviewed Articles in Journals (Selected)

Interviews in Journals and Books (Selected)

  • ‘“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: Bloomsbury 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.

 Essays in Exhibition Catalogues

  • ‘Exaggerated Super Normal: General Idea’s Television-Essays’, in AA Bronson, Diedrich Diederichson, Élisabeth Lebovici et al, General Idea, ed. by Adam Welch, exh. cat., National Museum of Canada, Toronto, 2022. (Translated as 'Le Super Normal exagéré : l’essai télévisuel selon General Idea' in a separate edition).
  • ‘Circlejerker’ in Solitary Pleasures, ed. by Marquard Smith, exh. cat., Freud Museum, London (London: Live Art Development Agency, 2018), pp. 73-9.
  • ‘A Pyrotechnics of the Mind: The Performances of Stephen Cripps in Context’, in Stephen Cripps: Performance Machines, ed. by Sandra Beate Reimann, exh. cat., Museum Tinguely, Basel (Vienna: Verlag für Moderne Kunst 2017), pp. 33-9. (Translated as ‘Eine Pyrotechnik des Geistes: Die Performances von Stephen Cripps im Kontext’ in a separate edition, pp. 33-9.) 
  • ‘A Battle of Wills: Ulay and Marina Abramović’s Relation Works’ in Ulay: Life-Sized, ed. by Matthias Ulrich, exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2016), pp. 124-8. (Translated as ‘Willensschlacht: Die Relation Works von Ulay und Marina Abramović’, pp. 120-23).
  • ‘Crocodile Tears: A Counter-Archive of Glam Aesthetics’, in Glam: The Performance of Style, ed. by Darren Pih, exh. cat., Tate Liverpool (London: Tate Publishing, 2013), pp. 95-107.
  • ‘The Queer Voice’, in Queer Voice, ed. by Ingrid Schaffner, exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2010), p. 2.

Essays in Artists' Books (Selected)

  • ‘Franko B: Blinded by Love’, in Franko B, I’m Here (London: Live Art Development Agency, 2020). Reprint.
  • ‘Falling is Not so Pitiful: On Syncopal Actions and Falling States’, in Kira O’Reilly: Untitled (Bodies), ed. by Harriet Curtis and Martin Hargreaves (London and Bristol: Live Art Development Agency and Intellect, 2017), pp. 294-5.
  • ‘Jamie McMurry: Shit Parade (Best Left Unsaid)’, in Jamie McMurry, Shit Parade (Los Angeles: JMM, 2015).
  • ‘Stay a While: Raimund Hoghe’s Histories’, in Throwing the Body into the Fight: The Life and Work of Raimund Hoghe, ed. by Mary Kate Connolly (London and Bristol: Intellect Books and Live Art Development Agency, 2013), pp. 109-13
  • ‘False Messiah: Oreet Ashery’s Saint/s of Whitstable’, in Oreet Ashery: Dancing with Men (London: Live Art Development Agency, 2009), pp. 94-7.
  • ‘Aftermaths: A Dialogue with Kira O’Reilly’, in Manuel Vason: Encounters, Bristol: Arnolfini,2007), pp. 204-7.
  • ‘Hounded by Love, Blinded by Lights’, in Franko B: Blinded by Love (Bologna: Damiani in association with Galleria Pack, 2006), pp. 10-4.
  • ‘No Love’, in Slava Mogutin, Lost Boys (New York: PowerHouse Books, 2006).

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


I welcome queries and applications from prospective doctoral students on topics relevant to live art, visual cultures, HIV/AIDS, and queer and sexual cultures. 

I have supervised 14 doctoral theses to completion:

  • Alkiviades Hadjiandreou, ‘Caught Up in the Art and Life of Emanuele Balzani: Experimental Writing, Queer Relationalities, and the Erotics of Recognition’ (2024)
  • Sam Čermak, ‘Despite Overwhelming Greyness: Slovak and Czech Performance from the 1960s to 1989’ (2024)
  • Micaela G. Signorelli, ‘Embodied Protest: Contemporary Performance Art in Post Dictatorial Chile (1973-2019)’; co-supervised with Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra (2024)
  • Adriana Disman, ‘Power and the Body: The Politics and Ethics of Self-Wounding Performance Art’ (2023)
  • Sofia Vranou, '"Modern Art on Legs": Leigh Bowery’s Performative Costuming and Live Art' (2021)
  • Vanessa Damilola Macaulay, 'Nowhere in the World is it Safe to be Black: Performance Art, Enfleshment and Black Subjectivity', co-supervised with Mojisola Adebayo (2021)
  • 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)

Public Engagement

Dominic Johnson gives a lecture backed by a slide showing a performance by Ulay/Abramovic

I have curated many large-scale public events, including: talks and screenings with, most recently, the Kipper Kids (Tate Britain, 2019) and Skip Arnold (Live Art Development Agency, 2019); a public engagement project on the legacies of Ian Hinchliffe, Lol Coxhill, Rose Finn-Kelcey and Roger Ely (Afterlives with Lois Keidan and Dave Stephens, Queen Mary, 2017); the one-day symposium 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); two series of Action Lectures by performance artists at Queen Mary (2015-16); an 18-month festival of performance art funded by Arts Council England (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); and many other one-off events and public engagement activities. 

I was a long-standing member of the Board of Directors of the Live Art Development Agency (LADA) for more than a decade until 2021. With the support of Lois Keidan and CJ Mitchell, former co-directors of LADA, I co-founded and convened MA Live Art, the first postgraduate programme of its kind in the UK, which ran between 2018 and 2021. We also co-edited Intellect Live, a series of books on landmark artists at the thresholds of performance, which published seven books on the work of Raimund Hoghe, Ron Athey, Lois Weaver, Adrian Howells, Kira O’Reilly, Anne Bean, and Joshua Sofaer. The series was co-published by LADA and Intellect Books.

Talks, Keynotes, and Conference Contributions (selected)

Invited speaker, ‘Performance Art as Recalcitrant Form: Histories and Theories of a Sensibility,’ Performance and Art: Evening Lecture Series, Royal Academy, London, 2023

‘Historiographies of Live Art in the UK’, Approaches to Cross-Historiographies of Theatre and Performance Art, Royal Holloway University of London, with University of Rennes II, 2023

‘Hamad Butt: Climates of Fear’, Department of Art History Research Seminar Series, University College London (UCL), Institute of Advanced Study, London, 2023

‘Love on Me: Life and Death in Jon John’s Archive’, Synergy Between Humanities and Natural Sciences in Cultural History and Theory, Art Academy of Latvia, Riga, 2022

‘Hamad Butt: Sublimission, or Death’, The Carrier Bag Theory of Art History: Experimental Writing In, On and Alongside Feminist and Queer Art (panel) at Association for Art History (AAH) Annual Conference, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2022

‘Love on Me: Life and Death in Jon John’s Archive’, Live Art: Histories of the Present (symposium), University of Glasgow, 2022

‘Idiot Bliss: Charles Ray’, International Summer School: ‘Curating in Context’ (Summer School/symposium), Skopje, North Macedonia, 2021

‘Love On Me: Life and Death in Jon John’s Archive’, Don’t Leave Me This Way: Accessing and Activating Challenging Archives (symposium), University of Bristol and Arnolfini, Bristol, 2020

‘Reading Art School, 1969-1973’, with Anne Bean, The Fine Art of Performance: Living Legacies of UK Art School, Attenborough Centre for Contemporary Art, University of Sussex, 2019

Derek Jarman: A Celebration, with Maria Balshaw, Neil Bartlett and Olivia Laing, Tate Britain, London, 2019

‘Becoming an Object: The Performances of Skip Arnold’, research seminar series, Department of History of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, 2019

‘Body Probe: A History and Theory of Piercing in Performance Art’, 23rd Annual Conference of the Association of Professional Piercers, Las Vegas, US, 2018

‘An Eight Day Passage’, Human Resources: Whither the Human? On the Human as a Quantitative-Qualitative Resource (conference), Institute of Education, University College London, 2018

‘What Makes Us Human: The Body’, What Makes Us Human: Conversations on Art and Philosophy (seminar series), Tate Britain, 2018

There is a Criminal Touch to Art: Ulay Steals Germany’s Favourite Painting’ (and conversation with Ulay), Ulay: So You See Me – An International Symposium, Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, University of Dundee, 2017

‘It Hurts: Art, Performance, and Pain’, Skopje Pride Weekend (festival), National Museum of Art, Skopje, Macedonia, 2017

An Eight Day Passage: Endurance and Performance Art in the 1970s’, Centre for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University (NYU), 2017

An Eight Day Passage: Endurance and Performance Art in the 1970s’, Contemporary Art Practice lecture series, Royal College of Art, London, 2017

‘Impossible Things: The “Life Art” of Anne Bean in the 1970s’, research lecture series, Leicester School of Art, De Montford University, Leicester, 2017

‘Impossible Things: The “Life Art” of Anne Bean in the 1970s’, Art History Research Lectures (seminar series), Department of History of Art, University of York, 2016

‘Homelands: An Excavation – In Conversation with Issam Kourbaj’, Sacred: Homelands (festival), Artsadmin/Toynbee Studios, London, 2016

‘It Hurts: Art, Performance, and Pain’, In Pursuit of Pain (‘Friday Late’, public event), Wellcome Collection, London, 2016

‘It’s All Allowed: Adrian Howells, Queer Performance, and the Logic of Permission’, Annual Queer Studies Lecture, King’s College London, 2016

‘Reckless People: The Performances of Stephen Cripps’, Stephen Cripps in Context, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 2016

‘Institutional Bodies: A Roundtable on Pedagogy and Risk’, Department of Performance, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, US, 2016

‘K. O. Kippers: The Kipper Kids and the Art of Sabotage’, Department of Performance, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, US, 2016

‘Archiving the Kipper Kids’, Live Artists Live: Performance Art and the Archive (symposium), Roski School of Art and Design, University of Southern California, US, 2016

‘Cassils: In Conversation with Dominic Johnson’, City of Women (festival), Pritličje, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2015

Keynote speaker, ‘Incendiary: Fragments of a Poetics of Fire in Performance’, A Day of Incendiary Art, MU Eindhoven (museum), Netherlands, 2015

‘Naked Hitchhikers: The Private Photography of William A. Rhoads’, How to do the History of the 1970s: Unearthing and Archiving Queer Lives, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh, 2015

‘Naked Hitchhikers: The Private Photography of William A. Rhoads’ (public lecture), ONE National Lesbian and Gay Archives, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, US, 2015

‘File under COUM: Art on Trial in Genesis P-Orridge’s Mail Action, 1976’, Graduate Lecture Series, Roski School of Art and Design, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, US, 2015


Dominic Johnson performs in red silhouette against a black background

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.

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