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Introducing Our Latest Publication: In Terms of Performance, a Keywords Anthology for Contemporary Cultural Practice

Jérôme Bel, Le dernier spectacle (The last performance), 1998. Photo by Herman Sorgeloos.
Jérôme Bel, Le dernier spectacle (The last performance), 1998. Photo by Herman Sorgeloos.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is pleased to share our newest publication, In Terms of Performance, produced in collaboration with the Arts Research Center, University of California, Berkeley, and co-edited by the Art Research Center’s Shannon Jackson and the Pew Center’s Paula Marincola.

A web-based keywords anthology designed to provoke discovery and generate shared literacies across disciplines, In Terms of Performance features essays and interviews from more than 50 prominent artists, curators, presenters, and scholars who reflect on common yet contested terms in contemporary cultural practice.

Sharing perspectives from distinct points of departure, contributors such as, Judith Butler, Philip Bither, Sabine Breitwieser, RoseLee GoldbergRalph Lemon, Richard Maxwell, and Catherine Wood reflect on terms such as Curating, Choreography, Duration, Live, Participation, Score, and Spectator. In their entries, the authors contemplate the relations among visual art, theatrical, choreographic, and performance art practices; the poetry of miscommunication; and the stakes of literacy in our current context of hybrid cultural production.

As a free online resource, In Terms of Performance is non-linear and richly cross-listed, enabling an unstructured browsing experience in which terms, contributors, and artworks connect intricately in a true web of reference—while inviting new entries to be added in the future. It also allows users to create their own PDF publication, customized to their interests.

The anthology is augmented by a series of extended interviews with leading figures in art and performance, including Tim Griffin of the Kitchen, New York; MoMA’s Kathy Halbreich; choreographer and curator Ishmael Houston-Jones; artist William Kentridge; experimental playwright Young Jean Lee; and dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainer.

A conversation between coeditors Jackson and Marincola describes the genesis of the project, and the editors’ aim to cultivate dialogue and invite repeated exploration across disciplinary boundaries. “The impulse underlying this project (which we borrowed from Raymond Williams in homage to his Keywords) is a generative one, and can be applied to so many kinds of cultural practice. It’s really a reflection of how much is at stake in the language we use around any practice, cultural or non,” says Marincola.

“Turning to this keyword strategy is also an attempt to understand a complex and rich field by seeing how the uses and vocabularies change not only over time, diachronically, but also synchronically, among the different domains in which the same keywords emerge,” explains Jackson.

Explore the free publication at and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using #InTermsOfPerformance.