Viral Sites: Scott Burton’s Sculpture, Undetectability, and Public Art in the First Decade of the AIDS Crisis in the U.S.
Scott Burton was one of the most well-known proponents of the new public art in the United States in the 1980s, and his work involved making site-specific sculptures of furniture that served the public. These seemingly innocuous functional artworks, however, were based in Burton’s long-running investigation into the queer experiences of public space, cruising, and dissemblance. Burton’s sculptures hide in plain sight, and this talk will examine their undetectability in the context of the first decade of the on-going AIDS crisis. Burton’s sculpture was both materially and conceptually tied up with the cultural battles over representation and contagion, and his works allow for an alternate account of the visibility politics that tend to dominate histories of AIDS and queer art in the 1980s.
Scott Burton, Two-Part Chair, 1986
David J. Getsy is the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the 2020–2021 Terra Foundation Visiting Professor of American Art at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. His research focuses on histories of sculpture and performance in modern and contemporary art, with an emphasis on queer and transgender history and its methods. His books include Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (Yale 2015), Queer (Whitechapel Gallery/MIT, 2016), Rodin: Sex and the Making of Modern Sculpture (Yale 2010), and Body Doubles: Sculpture in Britain, 1877–1905 (Yale 2004). His newest book, Queer Behavior: Scott Burton’s Performances of the 1970s, is forthcoming in 2022 from the University of Chicago Press. http://davidgetsy.com