Dr Catherine Spencer

Dr Catherine Spencer

Senior Lecturer

Researcher profile



Research areas

My research and teaching in the modern and contemporary period explore art’s relationships with political formulations, with particular interests including intersectional feminisms, internationalism and transnationalism, artistic exchange, technologies of mediation, and abstraction in the Americas and Europe. Current writing examines the constructs of the border and the trace in connection with art using abstraction in Britain since the 1970s, looking at the practices of Rasheed Araeen, Diego Barboza, Sonia Barrett, Frank Bowling, Rita Donagh, and Veronica Ryan, among others. Supported by an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellowship, in 2021 I co-organised (with Amy Tobin) the event series Grassroots: Artmaking and Political Struggle with Kettle’s Yard Gallery, and co-curated (with Caroline Gausden, Kirsten Lloyd and Nat Raha) the exhibition Life Support: Forms of Care in Art and Activism at Glasgow Women’s Library. A growing strand of research focuses on feminist photographic practices, and I have a longstanding interest in the abstract painter Jay DeFeo.

Previous publications have traced connections between transnational performance art, embodiment, sociology, psychology, psychoanalysis, cybernetics and system theory. My book Beyond the Happening: Performance Art and the Politics of Communication (Manchester University Press, 2020) examines how artists across Latin America (particularly Argentina), the US and Europe transformed performance art into a site of psycho-social analysis during the 1960s and 1970s. Related articles have appeared in Art History, Art Journal, ARTMargins, Oxford Art Journal, Tate Papers and Parallax. With Jo Applin and Amy Tobin I co-edited London Art Worlds: Mobile, Contingent and Ephemeral Networks, 1960–1980 (Penn State University Press, 2018); I have also co-edited special issues of Tate Papers and the Journal of Curatorial Studies.

I have supervised three PhD projects to completion at St Andrews and would be delighted to hear from potential students whose work intersects with any of the above research areas.

In autumn 2022 I will be on research leave supported by a Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art Mid-Career Fellowship.

PhD supervision

  • Isabelle Mooney
  • Roisin Tapponi

Selected publications


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