From Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art


Edited by Amelia Jones

Tracing the identification of art with sexual expression or repression, from the era of the rights movements to the present.





Tracing the identification of art with sexual expression or repression, from the era of the rights movements to the present.

It has been argued, most notably in psychoanalytic and modernist art discourse, that the production of works of art is fundamentally driven by sexual desire. It has been further argued, particularly since the early 1970s, that sexual drives and desires also condition the distribution, display and reception of art.

This anthology traces how and why this identification of art with sexual expression or repression arose and how the terms have shifted in tandem with artistic and theoretical debates, from the era of the rights movements to the present. Among the subjects it discusses are abjection and the “informe,” or formless; pornography and the obscene; the performativity of gender and sexuality; and the role of sexuality in forging radical art or curatorial practices in response to such issues as state-sponsored repression and anti-feminism in the broader social realm.

Artists surveyed includeVito Acconci, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Lynda Benglis, Louise Bourgeois, Gerard Byrne, George Chakravarthi, Judy Chicago, Vaginal Davis, Wim Delvoye, Elmgreen & Dragset, Valie Export, Félix González-Torres, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Harmony Hammond, Claudette Johnson, Mary Kelly, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Legorreta, Paul McCarthy, Sarah Maple, Shirin Neshat, Lorraine O'Grady, Yoko Ono, Catherine Opie, Orlan, William Pope.L, Miriam Schapiro, Carolee Schneemann, Joan Semmel, Barbara Smith, Annie Sprinkle, Alina Szapocznikow, Del LaGrace Volcano, Hannah Wilke, David Wojnarowicz

Writers includeMalek Alloula, Norman O. Brown, Judith Butler, Douglas Crimp, Angela Dimitrakaki, Michel Foucault, Daniel Guérin, Eleanor Heartney, Jonathan D. Katz, Rosalind Krauss, Julia Kristeva, Paweł Leszkowicz, Herbert Marcuse, Kobena Mercer, Laura Mulvey, Lawrence Rinder, Jacqueline Rose, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Susan Sontag, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Stephen Whittle


$24.95 T ISBN: 9780262526579 240 pp. | 5.75 in x 8.25 in

Not for sale in Europe or the UK.


Amelia Jones

Amelia Jones is Grierson Chair in Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. Her books include Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York Dada (MIT Press), Self/Image: Technology, Representation and the Contemporary Subject, and Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts.


  • Overall, readers interested in the history of modern and contemporary art will appreciate how well Jones brings together works that demonstrate how established contemporary artists have taken up human sexuality, particularly where sexuality intersects with, interrupts, and shifts the balance of social, cultural and economic power.



  • This volume seeks, to borrow performance artist Guillermo Gómez-Peña's words, to 'rehumanize, repoliticize and decolonize' the coupling of sexuality and representation, and does so in compelling and powerful ways. Amelia Jones has done a fantastic job in compiling and presenting an in-depth and polemical—in the best sense of the word—collection of core ideas regarding how sexuality has driven the development of contemporary art since the 1960s. The documents in this volume, the majority unapologetically queer and feminist, collectively chart and explicate on the major breakthroughs, controversies, debates, feuds and revelations shaping art and sex in our culture today.

    Ming-Yuen S. Ma

    Professor of Media Studies, Pitzer College; Chair of Intercollegiate Media Studies at the Claremont Colleges, California

  • Amelia Jones's anthology is a wilfully promiscuous romp through art theory, critical theory, interviews and artists' writings. Through her careful selections, sexuality is shown to be far more than the mere truth of what one is, or who one desires, in visual cultures as in other walks of life. Moreover, the encounter with art, Jones shows us, is liable to be a sexual event, even—or rather, particularly—when one least expects it.

    Dominic Johnson

    Senior Lecturer in Drama, Queen Mary, University of London

  • The poems, critical essays, interviews, manifestos and even letters to the editors brilliantly assembled here by Amelia Jones suggest that there is simply nothing more beguiling, more arousing, more to the point about art than sex. Straight sex, queer sex, s/m, porn and sex too subtle to name are all brought to bear on modern and contemporary art's possibilities and exclusions. Politically sensitive and boldly polemical, Sexuality is a great collection for teaching and for being taught anew all we thought we knew.

    Peggy Phelan

    Ann O'Day Maples Chair in the Arts; Professor of English, Theatre and Performance Studies, Stanford University