Protest in Colour and Concrete: Theatrical Textures in the Urban Fabric

  • Teemu Paavolainen
Part of the Performance Philosophy book series (PPH)


Thread 6 discusses instances of artistic activism in which the often grey concrete of the ‘urban fabric’ is overflown with its carnivalesque counter-textures: the Orange Alternative of the Polish 1980s; rainbow symbolism; the ‘knit graffiti’ of contemporary ‘craftivists’; and an antifascist clown patrol in Tampere, Finland. A staple in the performativity literature, the particular theatricality of political protest is located in more ephemeral qualities of surface texture and the abundance of colour specifically—deemed empty or excessive like theatricality itself; adding to urban texture rather than fading into its fabric. Zooming out to a more evolutionary time frame of more-than-human performativity (in accordance with the often organistic metaphors of artistic activism), the discussion helps imagine a more permissive politics of textural porosity and thus also of diversity—predicated not on antagonistic tropes of transgressive opposition, but on saturating the world, perhaps with the merest hues of textures to be.


  1. Adamson, Glenn. 2013. The Invention of Craft. London: Bloomsbury.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Artibise, Yuri. 2010. Urban Fabric: The Form of Cities. Blog Post, July 29.
  3. Austin, J.L. 1962. How to Do Things with Words: The William James Lectures Delivered at Harvard University in 1955. Edited by J.O. Urmson. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  4. Barba, Eugenio. 1999. Land of Ashes and Diamonds: My Apprenticeship in Poland. Aberystwyth: Black Mountain Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bell, Vikki. 2007. Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory. New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  6. Bogad, L.M. 2016. Tactical Performance: The Theory and Practice of Serious Play. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Boym, Svetlana. 1996. Estrangement as a Lifestyle: Shklovsky and Brodsky. Poetics Today 17 (4): 511–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bratich, Jack Z., and Heidi M. Brush. 2011. Fabricating Activism: Craft-Work, Popular Culture, Gender. In Buszek and Robertson, 233–260.Google Scholar
  9. Buszek, Maria Elena, and Kirsty Robertson, eds. 2011. ‘Craftivism’. Special Issue. Utopian Studies 22 (2): 197–402.Google Scholar
  10. Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 2015. Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buttimer, Anne. 1993. Geography and the Human Spirit. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  13. de Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven Rendall. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. Clowns Without Borders International. 2017. Who We Are. Website.
  15. Danto, Arthur C. 2012. Weaving as Metaphor and Model for Political Thought. In Hemmings 2012, 205–209.Google Scholar
  16. Dawkins, Richard. 2009. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. London: Bantam.Google Scholar
  17. Dawkins, Nicole. 2011. Do-It-Yourself: The Precarious Work and Postfeminist Politics of Handmaking (in) Detroit. In Buszek and Robertson 2011, 261–284.Google Scholar
  18. Evreinoff, Nicolas. 1927. The Theatre in Life. Edited and Translated by Alexander I. Nazaroff. London: George G. Harrap.Google Scholar
  19. Faiola, Anthony. 2016. Clowns Mock Finland’s Anti-Immigrant Vigilantes. The Washington Post, WorldViews, January 31.
  20. Fehérváry, Krisztina. 2013. Politics in Color and Concrete: Socialist Materialities and the Middle Class in Hungary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Fydrych, Major Waldemar. 2014. Lives of the Orange Men: A Biographical History of the Polish Orange Alternative Movement. Edited by Gavin Grindon, Translated by David French. Introduction by the Yes Men. Wivenhoe: Minor Compositions.Google Scholar
  22. Gavin, Francesca. 2007. Street Renegades: New Underground Art. London: Laurence King.Google Scholar
  23. Gottschalk, Molly. 2016. Why Certain Photographs Quickly Come to Define a Movement. Artsy Editorial, July 12.
  24. Graham, Ruth. 2015. Hillary’s Stitchery. The Atlantic, November 21.
  25. Greer, Betsy. 2017. Craftivism. Website.
  26. Haedicke, Susan C. 2013. Contemporary Street Arts in Europe: Aesthetics and Politics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hemmings, Jessica, ed. 2012. The Textile Reader. New York: Berg.Google Scholar
  28. Ingold, Tim. 2007. Lines: A Brief History. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. ———. 2011. Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. ———. 2015. The Life of Lines. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  31. Jestrovic, Silvija. 2002. Theatricality as Estrangement of Art and Life in the Russian Avant-Garde. SubStance 31 (2–3): 42–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. ———. 2012. Performance, Space, Utopia: Cities of War, Cities of Exile. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  33. Jonas, Hans. 1968. Biological Foundations of Individuality. International Philosophical Quarterly 8 (2): 231–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kızılkaya, Emre. 2013. Turkey’s Stairway to a Democratic Heaven. September 1.
  35. Klepto, Kolonel. 2004. Making War with Love: The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army. City 8 (3): 403–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  37. ———. 1996. Writings on Cities. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  38. ———. 2003. The Urban Revolution. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  39. Loldiers. 2016. Loldiers of Odin. Website.
  40. Mann, Joanna. 2015. Towards a Politics of Whimsy: Yarn Bombing the City. Area 47 (1): 65–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Martyn-Hemphill, Richard. 2016. A Three-Ring Circus in Finland: Soldiers, ‘Loldiers’ and Asylum Seekers. The New York Times, Europe, February 9.
  42. Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. McKenzie, Jon. 2001. Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance. New York and London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Misztal, Bronislaw. 1992. Between the State and Solidarity: One Movement, Two Interpretations – The Orange Alternative Movement in Poland. The British Journal of Sociology 43 (1): 55–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Moore, Mandy, and Leanne Prain. 2009. Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press.Google Scholar
  46. Morton, Timothy. 2010. The Ecological Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Newmeyer, Trent S. 2008. Knit One, Stitch Two, Protest Three! Examining the Historical and Contemporary Politics of Crafting. Leisure/Loisir 32 (2): 437–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Notes from Nowhere. 2003. We Are Everywhere: The Irresistible Rise of Global Anti-Capitalism. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  49. Orange Alternative. 2017. Museum of the Orange Alternative. Website.
  50. Paasonen, Susanna. 2005. Figures of Fantasy: Internet, Women, and Cyberdiscourse. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  51. Paavolainen, Teemu. 2012. Theatre/Ecology/Cognition: Theorizing Performer-Object Interaction in Grotowski, Kantor, and Meyerhold. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Parker, Rozsika. 2010. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. New ed. London: I.B. Tauris. First Published 1996.Google Scholar
  53. Pearson, Mike. 2010. Site-Specific Performance. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  54. Plato. 1992. Statesman. Translated by J.B. Skemp. Revised and Introduced by Martin Ostwald. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. Written ca 360 BCE.Google Scholar
  55. Rainbow. 2017. The Rainbow. Collection of Articles.
  56. Rancière, Jacques. 2004. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
  57. Riley, Charles A. 1995. Color Codes: Modern Theories of Color in Philosophy, Painting and Architecture, Literature, Music, and Psychology. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  58. Rimpiläinen, Tuomas. 2016. Näin Loldiers-klovnit pyörittävät mediaa – osalla on lievää rikostaustaa. Aamulehti, February 29.
  59. Robertson, Kirsty. 2007. The Revolution Will Wear a Sweater: Knitting and Activism. In Constituent Imagination: Militant Investigations, Collective Theorization, ed. David Graeber and Stevphen Shukaitis, 209–222. London: AK Press.Google Scholar
  60. ———. 2011. Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches: Writing a ‘Craftivist’ History. In Extra/Ordinary: Craft Culture and Contemporary Art, ed. Maria Elena Buszek, 184–203. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Robertson, Kirsty, and Lisa Vinebaum. 2016. Crafting Community. Textile 14 (1): 2–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rogue, Georges. 1994. Writing/Drawing/Color. Yale French Studies 84: 43–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Schechner, Richard. 2006. Performance Studies: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  64. Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, and Andrew Parker, eds. 1995. Performativity and Performance. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  65. Shiner, Larry. 2001. The Invention of Art: A Cultural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Simons, Jake Wallis. 2016. Finland: The Soldiers of Odin. Reportage. The Daily Mail, February 4.
  67. States, Bert O. 1996. Performance as Metaphor. Theatre Journal 48 (1): 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Taylor, Diana. 2003. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tyszka, Juliusz. 1998. The Orange Alternative: Street Happenings as Social Performance in Poland Under Martial Law. New Theatre Quarterly 14 (56): 311–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Verrall, Suzanne. 2016. Over the Rainbow: The History of the PRIDE Flag, Published in Honour of the Victims of the Orlando Massacre in June 2016. Online.
  71. Wacławek, Anna. 2011. Graffiti and Street Art. London: Thames & Hudson.Google Scholar
  72. Weber, Samuel. 2004. Theatricality as Medium. New York: Fordham University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wikipedia. 2017a. Grey. Last Edited on 21 August.
  74. ———. 2017b. Orange_(colour). Last Edited on 5 September.
  75. ———. 2017c. Tęcza (Warsaw). Last Edited on 13 July.ęcza_(Warsaw).
  76. Williams, Raymond. 1976. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. London: Fontana.Google Scholar
  77. Williams, Kristen A. 2011. ‘Old Time Mem’ry’: Contemporary Urban Craftivism and the Politics of Doing-It-Yourself in Postindustrial America. In Buszek and Robertson 2011, 303–320.Google Scholar
  78. YLE. 2016. Woman Trademarks Soldiers of Odin Name for Unicorn-Themed Clothing in Anti-Racism Protest. May 17.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teemu Paavolainen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of TampereTampereFinland

Personalised recommendations