Academic Staff

Dr Matt Lodder

Position in departmentLecturer in Contemporary Art and Visual Culture
Staff positionDirector of American Studies, Undergraduate Admissions Selector
Telephone01206 873007

Matt completed his PhD in 2010, having submitted a thesis entitled Body Art: Body Modification as Artistic Practice, and before his role at Essex taught contemporary art and theory at the Universities of Reading and Birmingham. His current research is principally concerned with the history of Western tattooing, and the artistic status of body art and body modification practices.

He has lectured on topics including body modification practices, tattoos and tattooing; contemporary performance art; deconstructivist architecture; lowbrow and outsider art; pop surrealism; digital and internet art; art & science; and Deleuzean approaches to art.

Recently, he has acted as a contributor and expert consultant for various television projects on body art and body modification, including the Today programme, the Jeremy Vine Show, Sky News, BBC Breakfast News, 'Coast' and National Geographic's 'Taboo', as well as on other local, national and international radio programmes. Radio 4 created a 30-minute radio documentary called "A Mortal Work of Art" which drew heavily on his PhD research and in which he features as a major contributor. His first book "Tattoo: An Art History" is currently in production.

Matt is currently Director of American Studies, overseeing the US degree programs within the Interdisciplinary Studies Centre.


BA (Hons) French & German - Bradford
MA, Critical Theory (The Body and Representation) - Reading
PhD, History of Art - Reading

Current research
  • The History of Tattooing in Britain and America, 1870 - Present
  • The Cultural Contexts of Operation Spanner / R v Brown
  • Postwar  Californian Lowbrow and Outsider Art, focussing on Ed 'Big Daddy' Roth
  • The impact of Christopher Alexander's Architectural Theory on Contemporary Software Design (Preliminary)
Research interests
  • tattooing and body modification in their historical and theoretical contexts
  • lowbrow, outsider, countercultural, kitsch and erotic art & visual culture;
  • the visual and cultural contexts of sex and sadomasochism;
  • internet and digital art; 
  • methodologies of art historical and visual culture study

Teaching responsibilities


PublicationsLink to publications for Matt Lodder
  • "I don't mind being branded a fashion victim, but an S&M victim I am not”: Operation Spanner, Mr Sebastian, and the strange problem of the navel piercing", Operation Spanner: History, Culture, Crime conference, University of Essex & Royal Holloway, UL.
  • “Gunpowder Under the Skin: Tattooing in Late 18th Century Maritime Culture”, AAH, University of Reading
  • “Tattooing as High‐Status Commodity Art in the Late 19th Century”, CAA, New York, February 2013


  • “The New Old Style: Tradition, Archetype and Rhetoric In Contemporary Western Tattooing”, Revival: Utopia, Identity And Memory, The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • “Tattooing as Artistic Practice: People of the State of New York v. Spider Webb” at CAA, New York
  • “The Myth of the Modern Primitive” at AAH10, University of Glasgow
  • “How do you make yourself a Body without Organs? – the post‐modified body and the Deleuzian paradigm” at Somatechnics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
  • “Self‐Made Men: Male genital modification and the (re)construction of masculine identity" at GENCAS ‐ Haunted Bodies, University of Swansea
  • “Human Canvas: The Modified Body as Art Object” at RX Futures – Space, Object, Idea, Kingston University.

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