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Malik Gainesphoto of Malik Gaines looking at the camera

Associate Professor


Malik Gaines uses performance as a premise for writing, events and exhibitions, music composition, video work, scholarly research and collaboration.

His book Black Performance on the Outskirts of the Left: A History of the Impossible (2017, NYU Press) traces a circulation of black political ideas through performances of the sixties and beyond, and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. He has written many essays about art and performance for journals, museum books, and magazines. His book-in-progress is concerned with monumental art and performances that mark the limits of U.S. sovereignty.

Gaines performs and exhibits on his own and in multiple collaborations. Since 2000, He has worked with Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade as the group My Barbarian. Their work uses musical/theatrical and critical techniques to playfully act out social difficulties. The trio has presented work in many prominent museums, event spaces, theaters and festivals internationally and was the subject of an exhibition and performance survey at the Whitney Museum, New York in 2021. Other performance work has included projects by the collectives A.R.M. and Courtesy the Artists. As a solo musician, he sings at the piano, exploring contemporary themes through historic songbooks.

Gaines is a co-artistic director of The Industry opera company in Los Angeles. His music composition work includes Star Choir, an opera about future humans who attempt to colonize a distant planet.

Gaines received a Ph.D. in Theater and Performance Studies from UCLA; a M.F.A. in Writing from California Institute of the Arts; and a B.A. in History from UCLA.