Tracktivism: walking & talking in rural landscapes as eco-activist performance.

  • Jess Allen

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis documents and critically examines the development of the novel eco-activist performance practice 'tracktivism': walking along tracks with activist intent. Tracktivism uniquely recombines walking art in the sculptural tradition with one-to-one performance: using long-distance walking of 'ecologically-framed' routes in rural landscape, to facilitate participatory eco-activist interventions with the strangers randomly encountered. Tracktivism has been developed through a practice research process that has involved the devising and performance of three distinct works. These have taken place in Herefordshire and Mid-Wales and comprise: (i) All in a Day's Walk (2012-13) two month-long performances eating only the food grown and processed within the distance of a day's walk from home; (ii) Drop in the Ocean (2013-15) two six day walks, in six concentric circles carrying a yoke and buckets, offering a tactile encounter with water through the guided ritual of a wish; and (iii) Trans-missions (2015) a week's walk across the county of Herefordshire, following the electricity transmission lines, transmitting messages between and handing out lightbulbs to the people encountered, with the invitation to return them to light a celebratory gathering at the journey's end. This submission serves to present tracktivism as a novel methodology for eco-activist performance-making. It employs a combination of reflective writing and critical analysis to (i) document the specific performance works; and (ii) examine the significance of each step of the wider practice methodology that has emerged through their making. In particular it considers how tracktivism has come to function as a vanguard practice of 'emancipated environmentalism' (Heddon and Turner 2012, p. 170); a reimagining of activist performance as a form of emancipated pedagogy, which seeks not to transmit an eco-activist message but rather to create the conditions for ecological learning, that allow participants to make their own sense of the work. In this way, the thesis positions tracktivism as a novel contribution to knowledge of particular utility to practitioners and scholars of walking art, live art, ecological and activist performance. In addition, many of the concomitant findings embedded in the methodological analysis – for example, the validity of contemporary activist performance-making in rural landscape – may be regarded of significance to the field of rural studies and the environmental humanities more widely.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAlison Jeffers (Supervisor) & Stephen Scott-Bottoms (Supervisor)


  • rural landscape
  • emancipated environmentalism
  • ecological performance
  • eco-activism
  • one-to-one performance
  • walking art
  • activist performance

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