Introduction: Risky Aesthetics, Critical Vulnerabilities, and Edgeplay: Tactical Performances of the Unknown

  • Alice O’GradyEmail author


This chapter brings into conversation research on risk and on participatory performance to examine the critical vulnerabilities at play in performance work which has risk embedded in its aesthetic. It takes the theoretical concept of edgework and reframes it in relation to participatory practice where playing on the edge is carried out as a tactic. It examines risk taking as a form of openness and as a means of creating spaces of potentiality. Drawing on Doreen Massey’s notion of radical openness it analyses a piece of practice led research to critique the application of risky aesthetics in participatory performance. It considers the ways in which the risks associated with ‘performative unknowns’ reveal the paradoxical effects of openness in relation to risk perception and vulnerability. The chapter proposes a new category of risk taking, namely ‘edgeplay’, a concept that combines sociological perspectives on voluntary risk taking with the playful and the performative. The playful aspect of this category acknowledges the slippery, contingent and equivocal nature of much participatory performance that deliberately seeks to blur boundaries and unsettle fixed distinctions. Applying the concept of edgeplay not only facilitates an interdisciplinary approach to analysis but also provides a critical tool for examining the motivations underpinning performance practice where risk and uncertainty are key features.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeedsLeedsUK

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