GETSY, David J.
Queer Behavior - Scott Burton and Performance Art
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 body language and queer behavior in public space—most importantly, street cruising—as foundations for rethinking the audiences and possibilities of art. This first book on the artist examines Burton’s underacknowledged contributions to performance art and how he made queer life central in them. Extending his performances about cruising, sexual signaling, and power dynamics throughout the decade, Burton also came to create 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 expansive artist, Burton transformed his commitment to gay liberation into a unique practice of performance, sculpture, and public art that aspired to be antielitist, 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 offers rich accounts of queer art and performance art in the 1970s.