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Prof Gavin Butt


Department: Arts

Gavin Butt is a scholar of modern and contemporary art whose work contributes to the fields of art history & visual culture, performance and queer studies, and popular music studies. Trained as a fine artist and art historian, he is a writer, curator and filmmaker. 

He is currently completing a book 'Being in a Band: When the Leeds Art Experiment Went Punk' which focuses on a crisis of legitimacy for modern art education in the 1970s and 1980s and groups that came out of art school, including Scritti Politti, Gang of Four, Fad Gadget, Delta 5, Three Johns and Soft Cell. The book considers the potential of art school education when access to higher education was free to all. He is co-editor (with Mark Fisher and Kodwo Eshun) of Post-Punk Then and Now, Repeater, 2016.

Over the past fifteen years he has published on "seriousness" in queer art and performance including essays on the work of David Hoyle, Oreet Ashery, Kiki and Herb, Bird La Bird, Charles Ludlam, Joe Brainard, Jason Holiday and others. He is co-author (with Irit Rogoff) of Visual Cultures as Seriousness, Sternberg, 2013.

In 2013 he 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.

Butt was the co-director of Performance Matters (2009-2013), a 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, it 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, made available Performance Matters film and video research to broader media publics.

He is also author of Between You and Me: Queer Disclosures in the New York Art World 1948-1963 (Duke 2005) and editor of After Criticism: New Responses to Art and Performance (Blackwell 2004).

PhD Supervision

I am interested in hearing from prospective students with practice-based or history/theory-based PhD projects in the following areas:

- artist-groups, bands or collectives

- avant-garde aesthetics and popular music

- performance art and live art

- queer art and performance 

- histories and politics of modern art education 

- popular culture and contemporary art

- class and culture

I have supervised projects on the following areas to successful completion: 'real-time' in late-twentieth century art; Central and East-European performance practices; death and commemorative practice in British art; embarrassment and contemporary art; trans and television documentary; performance and the anthropocene; feminist performance art and self-help; trashy tendencies in performance and live art; the politics of injury (the queer, the child, and the one-legged lesbian); the body in queer nightclubs; touching queer archives; schizoanalysis and performance art; lesbian photography and the subjunctive; and music video and gender subversion


Gavin Butt


  • History of Art PhD June 01 1998
  • History of Art MA October 01 1990
  • Combined Studies BA (Hons) July 01 1989

Key Publications

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Without Walls: Performance Art and Pedagogy at the ‘Bauhaus of the North’, Butt, G. 6 Jul 2020, In: Theatre, Dance and Performance Training
  • Bauhaus Imaginista, Butt, G. 15 Mar 2019
  • Bedsit Art in the Leeds Experiment, Butt, G. 15 Mar 2019
  • Polytechnics and Punks, Butt, G. 21 Mar 2019, Bauhaus Imaginista, London & New York, Thames and Hudson
  • Still Undead: Popular Culture in Britain Beyond the Bauhaus, Butt, G. 2019
  • Introduction: The Queer Commons, Millner-Larsen, N., Butt, G. 1 Oct 2018, In: GLQ
  • Post-Punk Then and Now, Butt, G., Eshun, K., Fisher, M. 15 Sep 2016
  • Performance Matters, Butt, G., Heathfield, A., Keidan, L. 2014, In: Contemporary Theatre Review
  • Welcome to the TV Party, Butt, G. 17 Feb 2014, Take It or Leave It, Hammer Museum
  • Performance Matters Archive, Butt, G., Heathfield, A., Keidan, L. 2013

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Gavin Butt is a scholar of modern and contemporary art whose work contributes to the fields of art history & visual culture, performance and queer studies, and popular music studies. Trained as a fine artist and art historian, he is a writer, curator and filmmaker.


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