Dr James Boaden



BA, MA, PhD (Courtauld Institute of Art, London)

James Boaden is lecturer in Modern and Contemporary art with a  focus on American art from the mid-twentieth century to the present. His research looks in particular at the crossover between experimental film culture and the art world in the mid Twentieth Century. James has published essays in journals including Oxford Art Journal, Art History, Tate Papers. He has organised film screenings at BFI Bankside, Tate Modern, Nottingham Contemporary, and The Hepworth Wakefield.

James is on research leave from September 2016 until March 2017




  •  Experimental film and video
  • American art from the 1930s to the present – especially art in California
  • Art, Sexuality, and Identity Politics
  • Photography

James is particularly interested in the way in which both experimental film and video have intersected with more traditional artistic mediums throughout the Twentieth Century. His work often focusses on the way in which personal narratives are mediated by moving image technologies. James completed his PhD in History of Art at the Coutauld Institute of Art, London in 2008. The thesis used newly available archival material to examine the work of the filmmaker Stan Brakhage and his relationship with a diverse range of artists such as Joseph Cornell, Carolee Schneemann, and Jess in the years between 1950 and 1965. The subject of the persistence of Surrealist practice and the place of queer sexuality during the Second World War and after, which were explored in that thesis, were  considerably expanded through a post-doctoral role at the University of Manchester’s Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies working on the project Surrealism and Sexuality.


James is currently revising his PhD thesis into a book length study examining the filmmaker Stan Brakhage’s collaborations with American artists. By examining the leading American post-war experimental filmmaker in relationship to his artistic contemporaries we can gain a greater understanding of relationships between art and film more generally – providing an archaeology for the predominance of moving image work in the museum today. This project also highlights the way in which Surrealism remained a central guiding force in the art world of the United States throughout the post-war period, in contrast to the dominant theory of a ‘neo-avant-garde’ reviving Dada and Constructivist styles in this period. He is beginning a new project looking at the way in which American artists and experimental filmmakers used life narratives in their work in the 1970s.

Research group(s)

Available PhD research projects

James is interested to hear from students interested in pursuing doctoral research in post-war and contemporary art history generally. Areas of specific expertise include art in California, Pop Art, Neo-Dada, film and video, photography, queer theory and politics in relation to artistic practice, feminist art, postmodernism.

Current PhD supervisees:

Ilaria Grando, Visualizing AIDS: Re-codify the body to re-codify society (co-supervised with Michael White)

Grace Linden, The Work of the Bowery School in New York (co-supervised with Michael White)

Kyveli Lignou-Tsamantani, (In)visible Atrocity Images in Contemporary Art: Towards a Reconsideration of the Ethics of Photographing and Viewing Atrocities (co-supervised with Michael White)


Selected publications


‘Mutual Exchange: Videotapes by Robert Morris and Lynda Benglis’, Tate Papers 25, (Spring 2016)

‘Gardeners and Outlaws, or Playing Hide and Seek with Edward James and Pavel Tchelitchew’, Papers of Surrealism, Issue 10, (Summer 2013)

‘Moving Houses: Jess and Robert Duncan’s Queer Domesticity’, Oxford Art Journal, 36:2 (2013), 257-280.

‘Black Painting (with Ashville Citizen)', Art History, 31:1 (Feb 2011), 166-191.

‘A Queer Turn? Proto-Pop and the Shadow of Abstract Expressionism’, Immediations – The Research Journal of The Courtauld Institute of Art, Issue 2, (Spring 2005).

‘San Francisco: Ruin of the Nineteenth Century: The Assemblage Work of Bruce Conner’, Papers of Surrealism, Issue 2, (Summer 2004).

Chapters in edited volumes:

‘Peculiar pleasure in the ruined Crystal Palace’ in Sarah V. Turner and Kate Nichols (eds), After 1851: The Material and Visual Cultures of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, (Manchester University Press, 2017)

‘Be Somebody with a Body’, catalogue essay, Jessica Beck (ed.), Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body, (Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, 2016)

‘The Optical Age? Maria Lassnig and American Experimental Film’, catalogue essay, Lauren Barnes (ed.), Maria Lassnig, (Tate Publications, London, 2016)

‘Dada, Surrealism and their Heritage? The North American Reception of Dada and Surrealism’, in David Hopkins (ed), A Companion to Dada and Surrealism, (Wiley Blackwell, Chichester, 2016), pp. 400-415.

Shorter Pieces and digital:

 ‘Look First: Deakin Double Exposures’, discussion with Paul Rousseau in films by Jonathan Law, British Art Studies, Issue One, December 2015, http://tinyurl.com/nqcj65a

‘Gregory Markopoulos’, Sight and Sound, November 2014

‘Warren Sonbert’, a blog for Tate Online, October 2013, http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/andy-warhol-filmmaker-warren-sonbert

‘Revisiting Brakhage’ a five-part blog completed as writer in residence for Lux: Artist’s Film and Video, Summer 2013. http://lux.org.uk/tags/james-boaden

‘Parker Tyler, ‘Myra Breckinridge and Mae West’, Little Joe, Issue 2, 2011.

‘Asbestos Curtain: A New Phase in Comic Abstraction’, catalogue text, (London: Galleries Goldstein, 2011).

James has also written a number of reviews for The Burlington Magazine, Contemporary Theatre Review, CAA Reviews, and Art History as well as contributing to the magazine Little Joe and the Lux: Artists' Moving Image blog as their 2013 writer in residence.



  • Art in the USA 1945-1970
  • Mirrors and Screens: The Worlds of Andy Warhol
  • Originality and Reproduction: Avant-garde, neo-avant-garde, and after
  • Modernism
  • Global Pop? Pop Art in a Global Context
  • Situating the Body in the 1960s: Video / Performance / Space
  • Image and Identity in California 1950-1985


  • The Uses of Photography
  • Visualizing Conflict in the Twentieth Century
  • American Artists' Film and Video: Pioneers and Contemporaries 


External activities

Invited talks and conferences

Conferences Organised

  • Glazed Expressions: Contemporary Art and Ceramics’
    Hepworth Wakefield, speakers included Aaron Angell (Troy Town Art Pottery), Emma Hart, Phil Root (The Grantchester Pottery), Jesse Wine. (June 2015)

  • Art outside the Canon
    University of York, speakers included Briony Fer, David Lomas, Griselda Pollock, and Dawn Ades (May 2013)
  • 'Sexuality and the Surrealist Sensorium'
    Tate Modern, London, speakers included Jonathan D. Katz, Brad Epps, Simon Fujiwara (November 2010) 
  • 'The Convulsive Nursery: Surrealism and Childhood Sexuality'
    Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, speakers included Michael Moon, Carol Mavor, James Kincaide, David Hopkins (May 2010)
    The Convulsive Nursery (PDF , 193kb)
  • 'Art and the American-Vietnam War'
    Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, speakers included Margaret Iversen, Francis Frascina and Catherine de Zegher (May 2007)

Film Screenings Organised

  • 'Homunculus: Playing the Masculine Pathetic'
    Screening to accompany the exhibition Tala Madani at Nottingham Contemporary  (February 2014)
  • 'Queer Surrealism'
    Screening and introduction to the films of Steven Arnold to accompany the exhibition Claude Cahun at La Virreina Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona (January 2012)
  • 'Invocations and Evocations: Queer and Surreal'
  • Screenings curated by Ed Halter, Juan Suarez, Stuart Comer and James Boaden at Tate Modern. A collaboration between Tate Modern, The Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies and Queer at Kings (March 2010). 'Reviewed in Afterall Online'
  • 'Exile and Retreat'
    As part of the screenings Invocations and Evocations: Queer and Surreal co-organised with Tate Modern (March 2010)
  • 'Scratching the Surface'
    To accompany the exhibition Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons at Tate Modern (September 2008)
  • 'Lights Up: American Structural Film'
    Three screenings at the British Film Institute to accompany the exhibition Dan Flavin: A Retrospective at the Hayward Gallery (March 2006)

Invited Talks

  • 'The Ambivalence of Influence: Brakhage, Warhol and after'
    LUX Mres Art: Moving Image Public Lecture. (November 2013)
  • 'Stan Brakhage: Father Figure Mountain Man'
    School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as part of the Terra Foundation seminars on Art History and American Studies, (April 2013)

  • 'Queer Times: Archiving Identity in Artists Film and Video'
    University of Edinburgh, (October 2012)
  • 'Stan Brakhage in the Bay Area'
    University of California Berkeley (October 12, 2011)
  • 'Through, On and From the Mirror: Sexuality and Avant-Garde Film in Post-War America'
    At the public seminar Reflecting on Narcissus, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (April 27th 2011)
  • 'Queering the House: Jess and Robert Duncan'
    At Hide/Seek: Addressing (and Redressing) the Silence: New Scholarship in Sexuality and American Art, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. Paper also given at the University of Oxford (January 2011)

  • 'Parker Tyler and the Erotic Spectator'
    University of Sussex and University of Nottingham (October 2010)
  • 'Forging Fields: David Smith's Agricola Sculptures'
    University of Essex (November 2nd 2006)
  • 'Keeping House: Jess, Joseph Cornell and the Outmoded Interior'
    University of Manchester (February 9th 2006)

Conference Participation

  • ‘Reyner Banham and Viva: Accounting for California Light and Space’
    as part of the public seminar “Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees’: Light and Space Then and Now’, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. (Novmember 2015)
  • ‘From the Flames of Watts: Art and the Civil Rights Movement in California'
    at the event California Soul, Royal Academy of Art, London. (April 2015)
  • ‘Lion’s Love LA’
    At Warhol’s LA, Nottingham Contemporary (December 2013)

  • ‘Father Figure Mountain Man: Stan Brakhage and the Performance of American Masculinity’
    At Historical Displacements and Vital Narratives after the American Century, Courtauld Institute of Art, (May 2013)
  • ‘Stan Brakhage and Films in the Folk Style’ 
    At "America Changed Through Music": Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music at 60, UEA London (September 2012)
  • ‘Hallucinating Hollywood: Parker Tyler/Gore Vidal/Mae West’ 
    American Art and Mass Media, INHA, Paris (May 2012)
  • 'Secret Gardens: Edward James and Pavel Tchelitchew'
    Querying Surrealism, Surrealism Laid Bare, West Dean College (June 2010)
  • 'The Convulsive Nursery'
    At The Convulsive Nursery: Surrealism and Childhood, Whitworth Art Gallery (May 2010)
  • 'Preserving Play: Joseph Cornell and Stan Brakhage's Centuries of June'
    In the session Dada and Surrealism in Play at the AAH Conference, University of Glasgow (April 2010)
  • 'Dick Racy and Nance: The Comic Collages of Jess'
    In the session Comics in Art History at the College Art Association Conference, Chicago (February 2010)
  • 'The Convulsive Nursery: Surrealism and Childhood'
    Keynote Lecture at Art and Desire, Association of Art Historians, Student Conference (November 2009)
  • 'Invaders in the Enchanter's Domain'
    In the session Surrealism and Non-Normative Sexualities at the AAH Conference, Manchester Metropolitan University (April 2009)
  • 'Trompe l’oeil: Jasper Johns and Painted Bronze’
    At The World Turned Inside Out: Bronze Casting in the Twentieth Century, Courtauld Institute of Art (November 2008)
  • 'Robert Rauschenberg: Black Painting with Asheville Citizen'
    At Representing the Everyday in American Visual Culture, University of Nottingham (September 2008)
  • 'Preserving Wonder: Joseph Cornell and Stan Brakhage's Collaborative Filmmaking'
    At Delayed Encounters: Legacies of Surrealist Film, University of Manchester (2007)

External Reviewing

  • External examiner for MA History of Art, University of Nottingham 2013-15
  • Reader of manuscripts for journals including: Art History, GLQ, Immediations, Rebus, Tate Papers


James Boaden profile

Contact details

Dr James Boaden
Department of History of Art
Room V/132

Tel: 01904 322947 

Fax: 01904 323427

Office Hours:
Wednesdays 11.30-1.30