Performance / Media / Art / Culture (Book)

Selected Essays 1983–2018

Experience the interdisciplinary performance scene of the 1980s and beyond through the eyes of one of its most compelling witnesses. Jacki Apple’s Performance / Media / Art / Culture traces performance art, multimedia theatre, audio arts and dance in the United States from 1983 to the present. 


To read a selection of articles from the book, click here. Articles include Performance in the 80’s: The TV Generation (1984), The Sound of History Dreaming the Future (1991), Peripheral Visions: Perspectives on Culture, Media and Performance (2017) and much more.


New Books Network (New Books in Performing Arts) interview with Jacki Apple


Experience the interdisciplinary performance scene of the 1980s and beyond through the eyes of one of its most compelling witnesses. Jacki Apple’s Performance / Media / Art / Culture traces performance art, multimedia theatre, audio arts and dance in the United States from 1983 to the present. Showcasing 35 years of Apple’s critical essays and reviews, the collection explores the rise and diversification of intermedia performance; how new technologies (or rehashed old technologies) influence American culture and contemporary life; the interdependence of pop and performance culture; and the politics of art and the performance of politics.
Apple writes with a journalist’s attention to the immediacy of account and a historian’s attention to structural aesthetic and personal networks, resulting in a volume brimming with big ideas but grounded in concentrated reviews of individual performances. Many of the pieces featured in this collection originally appeared in small press journals and magazines that have now gone out of print. Preserved and republished here for current and future readers, they offer a rich portrait of performance at the end of the millennium.

Jacki Apple is an American visual, performance and media artist, audio composer, writer, director, producer and educator whose diverse artistic career has encompassed a wide range of media and forms including multimedia installations, interdisciplinary performance, audio, radio, photography, video, film, artist books, drawings, site specific works and public art projects. 

Marina LaPalma was a founder of Kelsey Street Press in Berkeley in the 1970s and a performance artist and art critic in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Foreword by Marina LaPalma
Afterword: A Retrospective View

'This book is a stunning piece of scholarship, authorship, curation, and artistry. A potent historical record of performance art, it would serve well as a primer for any scholar, artist, or upper-level/graduate course interested in learning this history from a primary source. At the same time, the essays combine to become an inspiring call-to-action for experimental art-making. I frequently found myself wanting to know Apple and LaPalma’s current thoughts on the questions they raise, but the book’s true gift is the space they allow for the essays to question each other. Through their tremendous restraint in not adding additional comment, they invite readers to explore their own curiosity about performance, performance art, or whatever term comes next.'

Daniel Bird Tobin, Ecumenica: Performance and Religion

'[Apple] seems to have done more thinking and writing about this unstable and hard-to-contain genre than anyone else on the West Coast. [...] As a chronicle of 35-plus years of avant-garde ‘barricadesmanship’ in Los Angeles, Performance / Media / Art / Culture preserves an atmosphere of politico-aesthetic urgency, which can give the reader the off-kilter feeling that art ‘spaces’ surely are the place where ‘the world’ gets changed. [...] It’s a valuable history of some very untamed goings-on over time, and a detailed chronicle of what can happen when art turns into agitprop ruled by committee. One has the feeling that Jacki Apple’s influence extends to many an arts professor and art performer working today; this book ensures that and also shows why. It will have a long shelf life in academic and art libraries.'

Anthony Mostrom, Los Angeles Review of Books

'Only a handful of writers have the intellectual chops, creative intuition and vision of art history to speak holistically about performance art, but Jacki Apple consistently proves herself essential to the field and how we understand it. She digs into both the formal and the ineffable dimensions of performance with unmatched power and clarity without sacrificing honesty about the art and artists she clearly loves. Jacki stands in the evolving vortex of performance art so we can see its future.'

Eric Gutierrez, Writer/former Executive Editor, High Performance

'In the late 1980s and early '90s, Jacki Apple's pioneering essays on radio art as an emerging practice in the U.S. stood tall. Hardly any other writers publishing texts on radio, came from an arts background let alone an interdisciplinary one. Apple did, and her voice spoke with unprecedented insight, intellectual rigour, clarity and passionate conviction on the subject. She discussed and critiqued the most innovative and inspiring art works for broadcast in the context of the politics of the industry and of contemporary American culture. This wonderful edition encompasses the full range of her critical writings.'

Regine Beyer, writer/radio producer and editor, Germany-USA

'For several decades now, Jacki Apple's astute observations of the arts,
performance and culture in Los Angeles have added profound insight to this still
burgeoning landscape populated by the movers and shakers who flock here. Her
history as an artist in her own right expands the depth and comprehension of her
analysis. She has been an influencer in the truest sense, advancing the cultural
discussion with erudition and compassion. Among the annals of tomes
dedicated to understanding why LA is so significant, so centripetal, this is a long-
awaited addition.'

Tony Abatemarco, Playwright, Performer, Co-Artistic Director - Skylight Theatre Company

'Writing with deep historical knowledge, compassion and generosity, Jacki Apple
is an artists’ critic, always seeking first to reveal and then to celebrate the heart of
a performance, no matter what the medium. Her fearless radicalism, tempered by
a refreshing sense of humour, uncovers buried roots while also posing the most
essential cultural question: how does this art help us understand who we are? I
am particularly enthralled by the final section, Concerning Nature, essential
reading during a time when ecocidal capitalism has surely reached the breaking

Gregory Whitehead, Artist/writer

'Jacki Apple’s writing about the temporal arts stuns the reader with its capacity
to contextualise projects historically. She weaves together diverse cultural
interventions with an urgency about their meaning for this crucial moment in the

Beverly Naidus, artist, author, activist and Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts, University of Washington, Tacoma

'Jacki Apple has always made works that come at you from every possible angle.
As composer, performer, writer and cultural detective, she is fearless at pushing
the boundaries of her own work, while simultaneously providing platforms for
other artists to push their own possibilities. This book has been brewing for over
35 years. It is the story of what where when why and how we are in this culture
now, told by a vital participant and invaluable witness.'

Terry Allen, Artist 2019

'Jacki Apple is a tireless advocate for the aesthetic, the generative, for art that intervenes and illuminates. She is the rare artist who is generous and revelatory,
bringing enormous skill and knowledge to the work of fellow artists crossing
many disciplines, as do her own intricate and multifaceted creations.'

Jeff McMahon, Performer and writer. Associate Professor, Arizona State University

'Jacki Apple has always been a fair and thoughtful advocate of the arts. There are
so few writers with her depth and knowledge around. Expansive and generous,
Jacki writes with an open, inclusive heart.'

Ping Chong, Artistic director, Ping Chong and Company

'Jacki Apple’s heightened artistic perception has opened my eyes to the meaning of my early visceral raw performances from the 1980’s to the present more theatrically polished ones. Her insightful critical writing not only changed the way I understood my own work and its role in pushing boundaries and breaking taboos, but also the performance work of my peers in times of political pressure. For anyone who wants to understand this history, this book is eye-opening.'

John Fleck, Performance artist

'Jacki Apple’s accurate, intimate, gracious, erudite and insightful writing
provides a front row seat to an expanding cultural big-bang. This book is a gift to
those of us determined to understand the who, the where, the when, the how and
the why of the tectonic shifts that brought social interaction into the scope and
insight of art makers. Her enthusiasm for the subject coupled with a commitment
to her readers makes for learning more than history. She makes the history feel

Conrad Gleber PhD, Media artist
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