Book Pages: 240 Illustrations: 74 illustrations Published: February 2016

Author: Diana Taylor

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Cultural Studies, Theater and Performance

"Performance" has multiple and often overlapping meanings that signify a wide variety of social behaviors. In this invitation to reflect on the power of performance, Diana Taylor explores many of its uses and iterations: artistic, economic, sexual, political, and technological performance; the performance of everyday life; and the gendered, sexed, and racialized performance of bodies. This book performs its argument. Images and texts interact to show how performance is at once a creative act, a means to comprehend power, a method of transmitting memory and identity, and a way of understanding the world.


"Performance offers scenarios... for active pedagogy, inviting students and others to explore and perhaps undo the links between images and writing, texts and performances, so as to conduct their own performatic appropriations." — Loren Kruger, Critical Inquiry

"Taylor's fascinating, multicultural analysis of performance explores not only what performance is but also what it does—what it allows one to see, to experience, and to theorize—and 'its complex relation to systems of power.' . . . Recommended." — M. S. LoMonaco, Choice

"The book is performative and multivocal, combining images of performances in the Americas, Taylor’s narrative essays, and important excerpts from key texts on performance by academics, activists, and artists....The result is a work that gives ample space to artists/artivists as the creators of tactics rather than to performance studies
scholars who analyze nonperformance phenomena as performance." — Patricia Ybarra, TDR: The Drama Review

"Introduction, reflection, and provocation coalesce most successfully in Taylor’s passionate insistence on the necessity of performance and its academic study. Performance, Taylor argues, has real effects, but the nature of those effects is not pre-determined. The wielder determines the worth of the weapon. These passages alone would suffice to make the book a trusted companion of students and senior scholars alike." — David Calder, New Theatre Quarterly

"This book is a valuable introduction to performance art and performance studies. It is deftly argued and elegantly composed. Taylor concludes by saying that performance is ‘world-making’ and that we need to understand it (208). This book helps us to do just that." — Adrian Curtin, Studies in Theatre and Performance

“Incredibly important. Performance is a proffer of a new way of looking and thinking about performance.” — Robert Summers, CAA Reviews

"Diana Taylor concludes with a strong claim that 'Performance is a powerful weapon. We need to understand it.' In that light she is clearly a warrior and an exemplary scholar. But she is also, as evidenced in the pages of this book, a profoundly insightful, compassionate, hope-filled lover of performers and performance. I’ve rarely come across such a trustworthy witness to the potential of art and activism. For that last ounce of courage, I think I’ll just have to carry this inspiring chronicle of performance studies, performance art, and, from my read, artists of all sorts—and have it with me in every type of backstage dressing room I might occupy."  — Anna Deavere Smith

"Diana Taylor is the best kind of scholar: engaged, partisan, concerned not merely with describing her subjects, but with bringing forth the political power of their work. And that’s what this book does: it leavens existing visions in order to nourish new ones." — Jacques Servin, New York University

"At the beginning of this book Diana Taylor makes the claim that since the 1960s artists have been placing the body 'front and center' in artistic practice, and at the end she asks, 'How would our disciplines and methodologies change if we took seriously the idea that bodies (and not only books and documents) produce, store, and transfer knowledge?' In between, Taylor offers, not so much a set of answers to that question, but instead, an array of perspectives on performance from which we can commence an inquiry into its cultural, aesthetic, and political significance. As such this book provides a comprehensive and enticing introduction to what performance is, what it does, and why it matters. But the book does more: in the examples it discusses and the visual documentation it provides, it inspires us both to see how performance theorizes the world and also how we might imagine its possible futures." — Susan Leigh Foster, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Los Angeles


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diana Taylor is University Professor of Performance Studies and Spanish at New York University. She is the author and editor of several books, including The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas and Disappearing Acts: Spectacles of Gender and Nationalism in Argentina's "Dirty War", both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top

1. Framing [Performance]

2. Performance Histories

3. Spect-Actors

4. The New Uses of Performance

5. Performative and Performativity

6. Knowing through Performance: Scenarios and Simulation

7. Artivists (Artist-Activists), or What's to Be Done?

8. The Future(s) of Performance

9. Performance Studies

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5997-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5954-8
Publicity material