Research

Gavin Butt is currently completing a book entitled 'Anti-Gravitas: On Queer Importance'. The book explores challenges to cultural seriousness presented within queer art and performance. It promises to be the first study to theorise the thrall to seriousness in academic and critical culture, and considers work which troubles the hold that seriousness has upon issues of value and importance. The book includes perspectives on the work of David Hoyle, Oreet Ashery, Kiki and Herb, Bird La Bird, Harold Offeh, Marisa Carnesky, Charles Ludlam, Joe Brainard, Jason Holiday and Shirley Clarke, amongst others. He is co-author (with Irit Rogoff) of Visual Cultures as Seriousness, Sternberg, 2013.

He is also currently researching a cultural history of the Leeds post-punk scene in the 1970s and 1980s and the role of the city's art schools within it. The project explores the particularities of the cultural life of Leeds at this time to enquire into the intimate relations between experimental art forms, including performance, theatre and conceptual art, and the making of popular music in the wake of punk rock. It reappraises the importance of the post-punk moment in refashioning the popular imaginary through the migration of avant-garde and experimental forms into mass culture. It is also a case study of the radical potential of higher education at a time when access to art school and university was free to all. He is co-editor of Post-Punk Then and Now, Repeater, 2016.

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, is now available for purchase delivering Performance Matters film and video research to broader media publics.

His earlier monograph explored gossip and homosexuality in the New York art world Between You and Me, 2005, and focused on the role of unofficial testimony in the production of queer art history. His edited collection After Criticism2004, brought together writings by contemporary artists and academics which variously foregrounded the creative and performative possibilities of critical response.