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Dr Dominic Johnson, BA (Warwick), MA PhD (London)

Senior Lecturer in Drama



Dominic Johnson

I studied English at undergraduate level at the University of Warwick, and spent a year working in commercial publishing in London. I undertook a MA and PhD in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, before being hired as a Lecturer in the Department of Drama at Queen Mary in 2006. My educational background is interdisciplinary, and this is borne out in all of my research, which draws upon intersections between visual studies, literary studies, and performance studies.

My first authored monograph, Glorious Catastrophe: Jack Smith, Performance and Visual Culture was published by Manchester University Press in 2012. It presented a critical analysis of Jack Smith’s iconic yet marginal work, across performance, experimental film and writing, from the early 1960s until Smith’s AIDS-related death in 1989.


In the 2015-16 academic year, I will be on leave to complete a funded research project as part of the AHRC’s Fellowship scheme, towards a book and related research events on the performance of extremity.


Research interests:

  • Performance art and live art in the UK and US since 1960;
  • Performance in - and as - visual culture;
  • Art and controversy; and art and negative emotions
  • Oral histories of performance; and interviewing as a research method
  • Subcultural aesthetics

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. I am currently working on an authored book-length study of the performance of extremity (under contract with Manchester University Press). My most recent publication is an edited book on the late Adrian Howells — It’s All Allowed: The Performance Work of Adrian Howells (with Deirdre Heddon) was published in 2016. I also recently 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.

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.

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 recently 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 also published three edited books on major individual artists: Franko B (2006), Manuel Vason (2007), and Ron Athey (2013).

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.



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).

Guest-edited journal

(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

‘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.

Does a Bloody Towel Represent the Ideals of the American People?” Ron Athey and the Culture Wars’, in Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey, Foreword by Antony Hegarty (Series: Intellect Live) (Bristol and London: Intellect and Live Art Development Agency, 2013), pp. 64-93, ISBN 9781783200351 (hbk).

‘Marginalia: Towards a Historiography of Live Art’, in Critical Live Art: Contemporary Histories of Performance in the UK, ed. by Dominic Johnson, Foreword by Carolee Schneemann (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), pp. 13-30. ISBN 9780415659819 (hardback).

‘Crocodile Tears: A Counter-Archive of Glam Aesthetics’, in Glam: The Performance of Style, ed. by Darren Pih (London: Tate Publishing, 2013), pp. 95-107. ISBN 9781849760928 (paperback).

‘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. ISBN 9780230229730 (hardback) 9780230229747 (paperback).

‘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. ISBN 9780230348868 (hardback).

‘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. ISBN 9780415562348

Selected Peer-Reviewed Articles in Journals

‘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

‘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.

Selected Review Essays

Stages of Agency: The Contribution of American Drama to AIDS Discourse by Astrid Haas: Book Review’ in Journal of Contemporary Drama in English (Germany), 2.1 (2014), pp. 205-9.

Trans(per)forming Nina Arsenault: An Unreasonable Body of Work edited by Judith Rudakoff: Book Review’ in Contemporary Theatre Review, 24.2 (2014), pp. 275-6.

‘The Aesthete Barbarian’ (Book review of Pierre Molinier by Jean-Luc Mercié), in Art History 35.3 (2012), pp. 664-6.

Male Trouble: Masculinity and the Performance of Crisis by Fintan Walsh: Book Review’, in Theatre Research International 36.2 (2011), pp. 185-6.

Visuality in the Theatre: The Locus of Looking by Maaike Bleeker: Book Review’, in Theatre Research International 35.3 (2010), pp. 305-6.

Theatre, Intimacy and Engagement: The Last Human Venue by Alan Read: Book Review’, in Contemporary Theatre Review 18.4 (2008) pp. 514-5.

Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews edited by Nicholas Zurbrugg: Book Review’, in Contemporary Theatre Review 17.4 (2007), pp. 593-5.

See also my Queen Mary Research Publications profile


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.

PhD Supervision

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 have recently supervised the following successful projects:

  • 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' (2010)

Public engagement

With Maria M. Delgado and Maggie B. Gale, I am an Editor of Contemporary Theatre Review, a peer-reviewed quarterly journal of theatre and performance studies. I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the Live Art Development Agency (LADA; a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England), and I chair its Publishing Advisory Committee. 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, Raimund Hoghe, Lois Weaver, and Adrian Howells (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 Galleryy (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 the films of Jack Smith at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (with Matt Williams and LUX, ICA, 2011). 

I am regularly an invited speaker at international institutions, and recently these have included: Tate Modern, ICA, V&A Museum, and Whitechapel Gallery (London); Arnolfini (Bristol), Tate Liverpool, and Nottingham Contemporary; and internationally at the National Portrait Gallery (Washington DC) and Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin).

Dominic Johnson giving a paper on Operation Spanner and body modification. Part of the series "Damaging The Body" at the Pathology Museum, St. Bart's Hospital, Smithfields, 2012 (Vimeo).

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