Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Claire Bishop

Committee Members

Siona Wilson

David Joselit

Julia Robinson

Subject Categories

American Art and Architecture | Contemporary Art | Museum Studies | Musicology | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Other Film and Media Studies | Performance Studies | Theory and Criticism | Visual Studies


Feminist, Performance, Video art, Fluxus, Curatorial, Avant-Garde Festival


When classically trained cellist Charlotte Moorman (1933-1991) moved to New York City in 1957, she swiftly positioned herself at the intersection of experimental music, performance, video, and the visual arts. She interpreted works by composers like John Cage, collaborated with artists such as Nam June Paik, and founded and organized the New York Avant Garde Festival from 1963 to 1980. This dissertation argues that Moorman’s career sheds new light on what it meant to be an artist in this post-medium-specific moment and proposes that Moorman’s deterritorialization of authorship exerts pressure on traditional art histories. The generative dynamics of her collaborations with Cage, Paik, and festival participants instead suggest alternative models for understanding creative contributions in an art world increasingly marked by performance-oriented, open-structured, and participatory practices. The models offered in each chapter are: relayed authorship as a counterpoint to the autonomous composer; the inverse power of the submissive in consensual scenarios of domination; the performativity of self-presentation in a fully mediated world; and the relationally-constituted catalytic productivity of the curator. Moorman’s “minor history” demonstrates the vital work rendered invisible by the terms of major histories, and offers glimpses as paths not taken in regards to performance and curatorial practices that de-center singular authorship.