Gwyneth Shanks is performance studies scholar, curator, and performance-maker. Her research and teaching focuses on performance studies, curatorial practice, museum studies, critical race studies, queer theory, and art history. Her scholarship and exhibitions places contemporary performance, dance, and conceptual art practice in dialogue with fields like political and post-colonial theory, urban studies, Latinx studies, and visual studies. Her current research focuses on work by the artists Guadalupe Rosales, Mariana Valencia, Julie Tolentino, Rafa Esparza, taisha paggett, Patrick Staff, Gala Porras-Kim, Ming Wong, Eiko and Koma, Classisa Tossin, Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens, and Asco.

She received her PhD in Theater and Performance Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles and is the former Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Arts at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 2018-19, she was a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Shanks is currently at work on a book-length project, The Performance Turn: the Museum, Colonialism, and Experience Economies, that argues the recent increased attention to live art by museums must be understood as part of a longer history of embodied display and is linked to a neoliberal “experience economy,” while also representing an expansion of the art historical canon. The book reveals how performance curation is a cipher for a complex matrix of representational practices, politics, and histories key to understanding the globalizing art world and the increasing scrutiny many museums are facing regarding their historic and contemporary relationship to race, gender, and representation.
She is also at work on a second project, tentatively entitled Bodies of Water: Performing Ecology, Queering the City. This research examines performances that entangle water and queered subjectivities, and places such works within and against a broader landscape of climate change, water scarcity, municipal (mis)management, and struggles for minoritarian spatial freedom. Building upon scholarship by Mel Chen, Joshua Chambers-Letson, José Muñoz, and Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley, Shanks charts performance’s capacity to produce what she terms water dependence, a practice of corporeal and politicized empathy generated between minoritarian subjects, urban space, and water ecologies. This book joins a growing body of scholarship that links performance studies and ecological criticism, and argues queer and minoritarian performance is a means of rehearsing a different mode of corporeal survival in the face of climate change.

Her academic writing has appeared in journals and edited volumes including Third Text, Performance Matters, the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, Le Musée par la Scéne (Deuxième époque, 2018), Writing the Body: Staging the Other (McFarland Press, 2018), and Theater/Performance Historiography: Time, Space, Matter (Palgrave, 2015). She is the editor of a special journal issue on politics and protest for Lateral, and her art writing has appeared in X-TRA. Additionally, she is the editor of Always, Already, Haunting, “disss-co,” Haunt, the catalogue for the exhibition of the same name (Whitney Museum, 2019).

In addition to her academic work, Shanks is a choreographer and performer. She has been commissioned to create works for Materials & Applications, and her work has been presented by Echo Park Film Center, Highways Performance Space, and Install: WeHo. As a performer she has worked with, amongst others, The Trisha Brown Dance Company, Marina Abramović, Jérôme Bel, Maria Hassabi, and Meredith Monk.

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