Queer Behavior: Scott Burton and Performance Art
by David J. Getsy
University of Chicago Press
eISBN: 978-0-226-81707-1 | Cloth: 978-0-226-81706-4

The first book to chart Scott Burton’s performance art and sculpture of the 1970s.

Scott Burton (1939­–89) created performance art and sculpture that drew on queer experience and the sexual cultures that flourished in New York City in the 1970s. David J. Getsy argues that Burton looked to nonverbal body language and queer behavior in public space—most importantly, street cruising—as a foundation for rethinking the audiences and possibilities of art. Throughout the decade, he made complex works about bodies and how they communicate. Extending his performances about cruising, sexual signaling, and power dynamics, Burton also created functional sculptures that covertly signaled queerness by hiding in plain sight as furniture waiting to be used.

With research drawing from multiple archives and numerous interviews, Getsy charts Burton’s deep engagements with postminimalism, performance, feminism, behavioral psychology, design history, and queer culture. A restless and wide-ranging artist, Burton transformed his commitment to gay liberation into a unique practice of performance, sculpture, and public art that aspired to be anti-elitist, embracing of differences, and open to all. Filled with stories of Burton’s life in New York’s art communities, Queer Behavior makes a case for Burton as one of the most significant out queer artists to emerge in the wake of the Stonewall uprising and, in so doing, provides a rich account of the interwoven histories of queer art and performance art in the 1970s.
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