Dr João Florêncio
Senior Lecturer in History of Modern and Contemporary Art and Visual Culture
I joined the University of Exeter in 2015, having previously taught at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; Central St Martins, University of the Arts London; Goldsmiths, University of London; City and Guilds of London Art School; and the University of Portsmouth.
My interdisciplinary teaching and research navigates the intersections of modern and contemporary visual culture and performance with queer theory, philosophy, medical humanities and the posthumanities with a focus on issues of sexuality, embodiment, ecology, ethics and community.
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My interdisciplinary research explores the ways in which "the human" is questioned in contemporary visual culture, and how that might help us rethink embodiment, sex/sexuality, subjectivity, and new ethical frameworks of coexistence beyond the modern Western binaries "human"/"nonhuman", "life/nonlife", and "nature"/"culture". It draws from art practices, visual culture, performance studies, posthumanities and medical humanities to probe the permeability of the boundaries between the "human" and its others, at two different scales:
- one investigates the poetics and politics of the encounter between "human" and "nonhuman" bodies on a macroscopic level: interspecies relations, climate change, and the enmeshment of bio- and geo-logics in the context of the "Anthropocene";
- the other, continuing that same investigation but at a microscopic level, looks at the strange queer multitude that makes up the inner ecology of the "human" body: "human" cells, viruses, bacteria, recreational and/or prescription drugs, hormones, proteins, desire, pleasure, and the ways in which they in-form our bodies approached as porous interfaces.
Between 2019 and 2021, I'm working on a project entitled Masculinity and the Ethics of Porosity in "Post-AIDS" Gay Porn, funded by an AHRC Leadership Fellows grant. The project theorises gay "pig" masculinities and their visual mediation, which emerged in the last two decades in tandem with the introduction of antiretroviral therapies for the management and prophylaxis of HIV infection. It does so through a close critical engagement with representations of "pig" masculinities in contemporary gay pornography and through interviews with gay men and porn professionals. It contributes to existing critical histories of sexuality, subjectivities, and their visual representations by examining a contemporary form of gay male self-identification, one that is emerging in "post-AIDS" contexts through a complex interplay of desire, sexual performance, biochemical technologies, and 21st-century visual media. The research will lead to a monograph provisionally titled Porous Masculinities: Gay Porn, Sex, and Bodily Fluids in the Antiretroviral Age (forthcoming: Routledge), an academic conference, and the production of a documentary film in collaboration with director Rob Eagle and Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest, London.
In 2019-20, I'm a member of the Steering Group of "Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture," an AHRC-funded research network led by Professor John Mercer (Birmingham City University) and Professor Clarissa Smith (University of Sunderland), which connects academics, early career researchers and students as well as experts and commentators from outside academia to explore the issues and debates around contemporary masculinity, sex and sexuality in order to set an ambitious agenda for subsequent research.
In 2016–17 I was the Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded Research Network "Rock/Body: Performative Interfaces Between the Geologic and the Body" with Professor Nigel Clark (Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University) as Co-Investigator and the British Geological Survey as project partner.
Rock/Body brought together researchers from the arts and humanities, social sciences, earth sciences, health, and artists to investigate the the human body as an interfacial zone between bio- and geo-logics. It aimed to question the nature/culture divide geologically, by taking performing human bodies as both expressions of geological matter and forces, and prime sites of exposure and response to future changes in the dynamics of earth systems.
I am open to discuss compelling research proposals on any topics broadly related to his research interests and expertise. I am especially happy to consider working with candidates whose concerns intersect modern and contemporary visual culture, media and performance with interests in sex/sexuality, embodiment and subjectivities, ecology and the wider field of the posthumanities.
I am currently involved in the supervision of the following research students:
Sascia Bailer (MPhil/PhD Curating, University of Reading/Zurich University of the Arts): Radical Relations: Curating Artistic Practices for Social Justice of the Global South (1990-2017). Co-supervised with Professor Dorothee Richter (University of Reading; ZHDK).
Catherine Gray (MPhil/PhD in Art History and Visual Culture): Collaborating in the Presentation of Self. Co-supervised with Professor Regenia Gagnier (English).
Mie Al-Missned (MPhil/PhD in Art History and Visual Culture): Ritual Performativity in Transnational Networks of Contemporary Art: Adrian Piper, Shirin Neshat, Coco Fusco, Chengyao He, and Janine Antoni. Co-supervised with Professor Heike Roms (Drama).
Peyker Özler (MPhil/PhD in Italian Studies): Queering the Family and Modes of Belonging in Contemporary Italian Women's Writing. Co-supervised with Professor Danielle Hipkins (Modern Languages).
Yandi Wang (MPhil/PhD Translation Studies): Art in Translation: contemporary Chinese art in Chinese and English publications: a case study of the paintings of Xiao Gang Zhang, 1984-2014. Co-supervised with Dr Ting Guo (Modern Languages).
External impact and engagement
I believe academics have a duty to engage audiences beyond the so-called "ivory towers" of academia. Such dialogues will benefit academic work, institutions, and the various different communities and "ecologies" we inhabit.
As such, besides the media engagements below, my work has been featured in the catalogues of art exhibitions such as Field Static (Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago, 2012), Ghost Nature (Gallery 400, Chicago and La Box, Bourges, 2014), and the Venice International Performance Art Week.
Given my interest in collaborating with creative practitioners and exploring different modes of knowledge production and circulation, I have contributed work to various art and performance events, most recently the performance If/Then by Lisa Alexander and Hari Marini (Camden People's Theatre, September 2016; Royal Festival Hall, August 2017) and the online exhibition Institutional Garbage (Sector 2337, Chicago, September-December 2016). I have also co-devised a performance piece with Chicago-based artist and poet Devin King, entitled Of Things in Motion and Things at Rest, which we presented at ]performance s p a c e[ in London in October 2012, as part of Performance Matters' "Potentials of Performance."
Further to that, and within the scope of my AHRC-funded research network Rock/Body, I have curated an exhibition and performance programme featuring work by artists exploring the interfaces between the human body and the geologic (University of Exeter, September, 2016)
Contribution to discipline
- I coordinate the Exeter Masculinties Research Unit and I am a member of the Sexual Knowledge Research Unit, both based at the University of Exeter.
- I am the External Examiner for the "Constellations" cross-programme theory module at the Cardiff School of Art and Design (2017-2021)
- I am a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the Routledge book series Masculinity, Sex and Popular Culture.
- I sit on the Board of Directors of PSi: Performance Studies international (2017-2021) and was a founding member of PSi's Future Advisory Board (2015-17).
My latest media contributions include:
- "Grindr's HIV data problem began when it asked users to disclose their status." (The Conversation UK, 06/04/2018)
- "Glass talks representations of HIV/AIDS in gay pornography with Dr Joao Florencio." (Glass, 03/04/2018)
- "De choreografie van het ziek zijn" ["The chorepgraphy of being ill"] (Metropolis M, April 2017)
- "Who needs another AIDS movie? The crisis isn't over." (The Conversation UK, 29/03/2017)
- "Wolfgang Tillmans poignantly explores the role of photography today." (The Conversation UK, 01/03/2017)
- "La tuerie d'Orlando, une attaque homophobe sans l'ombre d'un doute." (The Conversation France, 21/06/2016)
- "Reduzir Orlando a um ataque terrorista é fechar os olhos à homofobia" (Interview with Portuguese newspaper Expresso, 19/06/2016)
- Interview in the aftermath of the mass-shooting at Club Pulse, Orlando (Up All Night, BBC Radio 5 Live, 14/06/2016)
- "Let's not get confused about this: Orlando was a queerphobic attack" (The Conversation UK, 13/06/2016)
- "Chemsex: why is gay sex causing straight panic?" (The Conversation UK, 12/04/2016)
Learning happens best when students feel respected, empowered, and responsible for their own learning. As such, I endorse a student-centred approach to learning and teaching. In other words, I always try to adapt my teaching to the interests and needs of my students whilst, nonetheless, never overlooking the intended course learning outcomes.
I think learning should be critical and transformative: not only should it provide students with academic knowledge and skills but it should also help individuals become independent thinkers that will go on to act in the world as informed, reflective, citizens.
My teaching tends to privilege a thematic or conceptual organisation rather than a chronological one. Such an approach allows students to challenge some misconceptions of History and to more easily follow visual and philosophical themes and tropes as they have circulated and been reinterpreted along multiple temporal and spatial axes.
Finally, whilst I work to maintain a high level of academic rigour in my classrooms, creativity and risk-taking are important tools in my approach to learning and teaching for they allow students to become daring thinkers and to question their preexisting beliefs and assumptions.
I hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Management of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (Goldsmiths, 2012) and I'm a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
I hold an undergraduate degree in Musicology from the New University of Lisbon, an MA (Distinction) in Media Arts Philosophy and Practice from the University of Greenwich, and a PhD in Visual Cultures from Goldsmiths, University of London (funded by the FCT, the Portuguese research council).
Whilst at Goldsmiths, I was also an Associated Researcher of Performance Matters, an AHRC-funded research project coordinated by Goldsmiths, the Live Art Development Agency, and the University of Roehampton.
Before joining the University of Exeter as a full time lecturer in 2015, I held various visiting, associate, and part time lecturer positions at Goldsmiths, Central Saint Martins, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, the City and Guilds of London Art School, and the University of Portsmouth.
In the past few years, I have collaborated with several artists, independent publishers, curators and galleries in various creative projects both in the UK and abroad.
I was a founding member of the Future Advisory Board of PSi - Performance Studies international (2015-2017) and have recently been elected to the Board of Directors of Performance Studies international in the role of Digital Communications Officer (2017-2021). I have also recently taken up the role of External Examiner for the "Constellations" cross-programme theory module at the Cardiff School of Art and Design (2017-2021).
At Exeter, I have been the Senior Misconduct Officer for Humanities, the academic representative on the Art History and Visual Culture Students-Staff Liaison Committee, and the employability rep for AHVC degree programme. I am a member of the College of Humanities Inclusivity Group and the university's Gender Equality Group, and a member of Senate elected by the College of Humanities (2017–2020).
Since moving to Exeter, I have conducted peer-reviewing for the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and reviewed book proposals for Bloomsbury Academic and articles submitted to the journals Subjectivity, Feminist Review, Performance Philosophy, GPS: Global Performance Studies, and otherw.