1st Edition

Performance Action The Politics of Art Activism

By Paula Serafini Copyright 2018
    208 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    208 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Performance Action looks to advance the understanding of how art activism works in practice, by unpacking the relationship between the processes and politics that lie at its heart. Focusing on the UK but situating its analysis in a global context of art activism, the book presents a range of different cases of performance-based art activism, including the anti-oil sponsorship performances of groups like Shell Out Sounds and BP or not BP?, the radical pedagogy project Shake!, the psychogeographic practice of Loiterers Resistance Movement, and the queer performances of the artist network Left Front Art. Based on participatory, ethnographic research, Performance Action brings together a wealth of first-hand accounts and interviews followed by in-depth analysis of the processes and politics of art activist practice. The book is unique in that it adopts an interdisciplinary approach that borrows concepts and theories from the fields of art history, aesthetics, anthropology, sociology and performance studies, and proposes a new framework for a better understanding of how art activism works, focusing on processes. The book argues that art activism is defined by its dual nature as aesthetic-political practice, and that this duality and the way it is manifested in different processes, from the building of a shared collective identity to the politics of participation, is key towards fully understanding what sets apart art activism from other forms of artistic and political practice. The book is aimed at both specialist and non-specialist audiences, offering an accessible and engaging way into new theoretical contributions in the field of art activism, as well as on wider subjects such as participation, collective identity, prefiguration and institutional critique.

    List of Figures



    1. ‘Harmonic Disobedience’: Constructing a Collective Identity in an Activist Choir

    2. A Viking Longship: Participation in Performance Action

    3. From Transgression to Prefiguration: Performance Action as a Blueprint for Social Change

    4. Breaking Barriers: Bodies, Institutions, and Codes

    5. Loitering in the City: Psychogeography as Art Activism

    6. New Narratives: Rethinking Activism through Art in the Youth Project ‘Voices that Shake!’

    7. Breaking the Mould: Art Activism and Art Institutions

    8. Towards a Theory of Art Activism




    Paula Serafini is a cultural politics scholar, practitioner and organiser. Her work is concerned with the relationship between aesthetics and politics, and with artistic and media interventions in art institutions, labour struggles, and environmental and social justice movements. She is currently a Research Associate at CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies, University of Leicester, and holds a PhD in Social and Cultural Analysis (King’s College London), an MA in Anthropology & Cultural Politics (Goldsmiths College) and a BA in Art History and Cultural Management (Universidad del Salvador, Argentina). Her previous publications include journal articles in Third Text and Anarchist Studies, and the edited collection artWORK: Art, Labour and Activism, co-edited with Alberto Cossu and Jessica Holtaway (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2017).