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  The art of producing the now. Performance is currently one of the key metaphors in the social sciences and humanities, and is inevitably making its way into human geography (e.g. Schechner, 1988; Phelan, 1994, 1998; Campbell, 1996; Dening, 1996; Frith, 1996; Hetherington, 1998; Hughes-Freeland, 1998; Abercrombie and Longhurst, 1998; Thrift, 2000).

Performance can be thought of on two levels. On one, performance is a means of theorizing the day-to-day improvisations which are the means by which the now is produced. Arising especially out of the expressive powers of the body, these improvisations enable each moment to be open to possibility even if, as Judith Butler (1997) makes clear in her account of performativity, they often fall back into, indeed often form a part of, the normative. At another level, performance is the practical means by which these improvisatory skills are brought out and used to construct performances of various kinds. At this level, performance includes the vast archive of work in the performing arts — theatre, dance, music — which has honed these skills through the centuries.

Performance offers human geography five things. First, it provides a means of communication which moves away from the purely textual and, in so doing, provides new means of expression and new communities to reach out to. Second, it provides a new set of qualitative methods which can be used to expand human geographers\' currently very limited (and often elitist) repertoire of ethnography, focus groups, in-depth interviews and the like. Third, it provides a political instrument. Since the 1960s, performance has become a mainstream of much political protest, both in its ability to stage events and in its corresponding ability to involve the media for progressive ends. Fourth, it provides a spur to theory since, by emphasizing creativity, it moves back to Aristotelian ideas of phronesis, of the production of practical wisdom, and then strikes out on an alternative track which stresses many of the same non-representational skills and institutions that are to be found in non-representational theory and similar bodies of work (Thrift, 2000). And fifth, performance gains many of its effects through the speculative manipulation of space and time. It is therefore inherently and intimately geographical. (NJT)

References Abercrombie, N. and Longhurst, B. 1998: Audiences. London: Sage. Butler, J. 1997: Excitable speech. London and New York: Routledge. Campbell, P., ed., 1996: Analysing performance. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Dening, C. 1996: Performances. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Frith, S. 1996: Performing rites. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hetherington, K. 1998: Expressions of identity. Space, performance, politics. London: Sage. Phelan, P. 1994: Unmarked. The politics of performance. New York: New York University Press. Phelan, P., ed., 1998: The ends of performance. New York: New York University Press. Schechner, R. 1988: Performance theory. London: Routledge. Thrift, N.J. 2000: Afterwords. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 19. Hughes-Freeland, F., ed., 1998: Ritual, performance, media. London: Routledge.

Suggested Reading Performance Research (three times a year), Routledge: ISSN 1352-8165.



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