Past Events

'Dying a Very British Death: Ecstatic Antibodies and the Possibilities of Censorship of Queer Art in Britain, c.1990'

Research Lunch – Theo Gordon

  • 17 July 2020
  • 12:00 – 1:00 pm
  • This talk will be given online via a Zoom webinar

The 1990 exhibition Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS Mythology (Impressions Gallery of Photography, York), was conceived by the curators Tessa Boffin and Sunil Gupta as a pro-sex, pro-queer artistic intervention into the politics of representation of the AIDS crisis in the UK. The show featured a range of painting, photography, moving image and installation work, and opened to considerable local controversy in York, before its display at the Viewpoint Gallery, Salford was preemptively cancelled by the city council with murmurs of Thatcher's notorious Section 28 as cause. The few subsequent accounts have likened this censorship to that experienced by artists in the 'culture wars' in the United States in 1990s. In this paper I contest such a parallel between the US and UK contexts, rethinking Richard Meyer's canonical art historical account of censorship as productive of queer art. Ecstatic Antibodies, I argue, faced the particular idiosyncrasies, false starts, and deep repressions of British culture at the turn of the 1990s, forces that worked to foreclose, rather than enable, its artistic project.

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About the speaker

  • Head and shoulders portrait of Theo Gordon

    Theo Gordon an art historian, currently working as the Terra Foundation for American Art Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C. He gained his PhD from The Courtauld Institute of Art in 2018 and has since taught at the University of Sussex. His current research focuses on photography and AIDS in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, and on Duane Michals, Sunil Gupta, and 1970s’ gay photography in the USA.