1st Edition

Eco-Performance, Art, and Spatial Justice in the US

By Courtney B. Ryan Copyright 2023
    182 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    182 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In Eco-Performance, Art, and Spatial Justice in the US, Courtney B. Ryan traces how urban artists in the US from the 1970s until today contend with environmental domestication and spatial injustice through performance.

    In theater, art, film, and digital media, the artists featured in this book perform everyday, spatialized micro-acts to contest the mutual containment of urbanites and nonhuman nature. Whether it is plant artist Vaughn Bell going for a city stroll in her personal biosphere, photographer Naima Green photographing Black urbanites in lush New York City parks, guerrilla gardeners launching seed bombs into abandoned city lots, or a satirical tweeter parodying BP’s response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the subjects in this book challenge deeply engrained Western directives to domesticate nonhuman nature. In examining how urban eco-artists perform alternate ecologies that celebrate the interconnectedness of marginalized human, vegetal, and aquatic life, Ryan suggests that small environmental performances can expose spatial injustice and increase spatial mobility.

    Bringing a performance perspective to the environmental humanities, this interdisciplinary text offers readers stymied by the global climate crisis a way forward. It will appeal to a wide range of students and academics in performance, media studies, urban geography, and environmental studies.

    Introduction: Toward a Spatialized Eco-Performance

    1. In a Plant Time and Place: Plant Art in the City

    2. "I Speak to Him of Seeds": Centering Black Experiences of Green Space

    3. "Plant Some Shit": Guerrilla Gardening as Tactical Performance

    4. "Touch the Water": Performing the Los Angeles River

    5. Performing Ecological Irresolution in the 2010 BP Oil Spill


    Courtney B. Ryan is a Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Critical Inquiry, University at Albany, SUNY, USA.

    "Courtney B. Ryan’s piercing insights transform our relatedness to the everyday spaces around us, opening new understandings about how inequity is embedded into spatial relations, and how performance can partner with places both verdant and vulnerable to expose injustices and renew connections. Eloquent, passionate and particular, this book is a must read for those who seek to balance justice, beauty, and resilience through the arts. An important addition to ecodramaturgy and ecocriticism and the ways that place and privilege are intertwined."

    Theresa May, author of Earth Matters on Stage: Ecology, Environment and American Theater (Routledge, 2021), Professor, University of Oregon, USA


    "This is a fascinating, interdisciplinary study of how the control of the human and more-than-human world is spatially performed and resisted both 'in the dirt' of American backyards and 'online' in our Twitter feeds. Indeed, one of the pleasures of this book lies in the diversity of performances that Courtney B. Ryan assembles into a new archive of national acts of resistance to the logic of extraction driving climate change. She demonstrates that the often 'numbing' experience of the Anthropocene and climate change may be understood, addressed, and resisted through small, everyday acts. Ryan’s engaging voice and the new cast of eco-performers she identifies are most welcome contributions to research in the environmental humanities."  

    Alicia Carroll, Professor of English, Auburn University, USA