Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History of Art

First Advisor

Kaja Silverman


This study examines how artists in the US reimagined aesthetic practice through performances of refusal from 1964 to 1975. Attending to the emergent genre of the lecture-performance, I analyze pedagogical projects that articulate dissent through interventions into existing models of knowledge, asking: what is to be learned from saying no? These projects respond, in part, to artists’ encounters with university training. They redefine artistic activity through critical engagements with the labor of the information worker, a figure sartorially invoked by the bespectacled uniform of a professorial archetype. Artists deployed the lecture format to imagine how knowledge might be assembled otherwise: within counter-institutional frameworks, beyond authorized discourse, through embodied tactics of performativity, and toward socially transformative ends. They did so at a moment when artists’ academicization proceeded as an explicitly gendered project that privileged masculine-coded cognitive labor over and against modes of work coded as feminized craft. Jettisoning these divisions, the lecture-performance situates knowledge in the specificity of embodied agents. In this way, lecture-performance renegotiates the discursive practices that regulate bodies of knowledge and knowledgeable bodies. Placing these developments in conversation with the agitational speech of artist activism, my study focuses on affiliates of the 1970 Art Strike Against Racism, Sexism, War, and Repression. It tracks forms of pedagogy and protest across a range of media beyond the lecture-performance, including video lectures, pamphlets, and photographic series by Robert Morris, Adrian Piper, Faith Ringgold, and Andy Warhol. Its case studies toggle between artworks, performative speech acts, and direct action, arguing for the porousness of their categorical boundaries in this period. Redressing the claim that artists’ strikes, protests, and boycotts foreclose possibilities for productive engagement, I route practices of refusal toward their generative, dialogic capacities. Charting the convergence of movements in art and activism from 1964 to 1975, this study asks what we have to learn from statements of refusal delivered at the interstices of academic lecterns, political podiums, and sites of artistic display.