Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Claire Bishop

Committee Members

David Savran

David Grubbs

Julia Bryan-Wilson

Subject Categories

American Art and Architecture | American Popular Culture | Contemporary Art | Interdisciplinary Arts and Media | Performance Studies


New York City, Performance, Performance Art, 1970s, 1980s, Contemporary Art, Nightclubs, Arts Funding, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Public Television, Artist Television


Art After Dark: Economies of Performance, New York City 1978-1988 examines the interwoven social and economic histories of New York City and performance in the late 1970s and 1980s. The dissertation traces the growth and visibility of performance art, moving from the recession of the 1970s and early years of public funding for the arts, to the downtown nightclub scene of the 1980s, the history of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, and artistic experiments with television in the 1980s.Looking closely at the economic conditions under which performance occurred during the late 1970s and early 1980s, this dissertation counters dominant scholarship on performance as an inherently market-subverting medium, and the restrictive assumption that any exchange of money, for any kind of art, automatically resulted in “selling out” and a capitulation to capitalism. Rather, I argue that performance actively creates economies and that economics, in turn, shapes performance.

The cornerstone of the dissertation is one of these performance economies: what I call a ‘market-community’—a community constituted by practices of production and consumption and emblematic of the larger economic shifts towards affective and immaterial labor in a post-Fordist service economy. By assessing performance alongside the development of a market exchanging affective, immaterial labor and services—rather than goods, as the art market traditionally does—provides a model for understanding this economy of performance and its growth during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Pulling directly from archives and oral histories, examining grant applications, budgets, tax returns, correspondences, marketing materials and more, each chapter analyzes the shifting economies for performance, focusing on the rise of the market-community, a study of how it operated during its heyday, what befell it, and what happened in the aftermath.