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David Getsy headshot

David Getsy has been awarded the Dedalus Foundation’s 2019 Senior Fellowship for his book project Queer Behavior: Scott Burton’s Postminimalism and Performance in the 1970s.

In his project, Getsy examines the relationship between performance art and public art in the work of artist-critic Scott Burton. Burton’s more well-known public work of the 1980s (comprising functional sculptures of furniture) was based on his decade-long career as a performance artist in the 1970s. His performances interrogated the power dynamics of interpersonal behavior, and he prioritized issues of non-verbal communication, camouflage, and cruising. In this, Burton took the queer experience of public space (as a zone of both danger and of possibility) as the foundation from which to envision a more inclusive and less normative account of both sociality and art’s role in it. Drawing on such divergent sources as cybernetics, behavioral psychology, feminism, and those traditions in modernism that aspired to an art interwoven with the everyday, Burton developed a postminimalist performance practice that valued dissemblance and coded erotics. In conjunction, he sought to activate themes in modernist art and design through the creation of sculptures that solicited participation and could hide in plain sight as anti-elitist functional objects. Extrapolating from queer experience, Burton sought a mode of public art that was demotic, accessible, and open to questions of difference.

David J. Getsy is the author of Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (Yale 2015), Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (Yale 2010), and Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877–1905 (Yale 2004). His edited books include Queer (MIT 2016), From Diversion to Subversion: Games, Play, and Twentieth-Century Art (Penn State 2011), and Scott Burton: Collected Writings on Art and Performance, 1965–1975 (Soberscove 2012). He recently curated the 2018–2019 retrospective Rubbish and Dreams: The Genderqueer Performance Art of Stephen Varble for the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York.