Pedestrian Performance: A Mapped Journey
Darby, Kristofor James
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis is located within the discourse of pedestrian performance, an area of research which has emerged from a recent proliferation of site-based works that are concerned with walking as an aesthetic and performative practice. However, my research seeks to expand the field beyond studies of site-based performances. Through placing emphasis on the action of walking itself within performance, I argue that pedestrian performance is an umbrella term for a host of performances that utilise walking. Beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, I present a mapped journey of pedestrian performance, with each chapter in my thesis acting as a waymarker. Each waymarker is shaped by a distinctive spatial arrangement, plotting a journey from the theatre to the site. Although there is a sense of chronology in this journey, its structure lies principally in the subtle shifting of the spatial arrangement of the performer and audience. The first waymarker is that of the theatre, where I examine the manner in which the journey has been staged and the kinesthetic empathy of a seated audience. I then move to the overlooked staging of promenade performance, exploring the varying tensions incurred by putting an audience on their feet. From here I investigate the familiar territory of site and how walking allows us to distinguish between site-specific and situation-specific performances. Finally I address the non-site, illustrating how this theory of land artist Robert Smithson, can enhance our understanding of a recent wave of pedestrian performances which involve journeys to sites that cannot be reached. I close this thesis by presenting a more cohesive illustration of pedestrian performance, illustrating its varying incarnations within an expanded field. Such an expansion of the landscape allows the pedestrian performance scholar to discern between the different ways in which walking and the journey motif has been utilised in performance. Furthermore, it also reveals a legacy of this mode of performance which predates its popularity in site-based works, enabling a dialogue to occur between scholars of both theatre and performance studies.
'Framing the Drift and Drifting the Frame: Walking with Wrights & Sites', New Theatre Quarterly, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp. 48-60.
PhD in Drama