Tracktivism: on walking a neologism into the field (of activist performance)

Jess Allen


‘Tracktivism’ is a neologism I have come to regret. Intended to describe my nascent activist performance practice in rural landscapes – walking along tracks with activist intent – the term was first conceived as a deadpan antidote to ‘slacktivism’: ‘[participating in] feel-good internet campaigns that don’t actually […] have political impact…[;] pretending to care while sitting on your butt in front of a computer’ (Urban Dictionary 2014). In contrast, I was naively hopeful that sustained and substantial walking (art) could be used to facilitate meaningful encounters with strangers; addressing ecological concerns in rural landscapes.

It is easy, when neologising, to imaginatively over-state the claims for performance art, over-estimate the efficacy of activism, lionise the heroic solo walker, and instrumentalise or appropriate an entire field of arts practice (walking). But it is far harder, in practice, walking a neologism into the (literal) field. This article takes the reader on a brief jaunt through my own reflective journey of performance-making, arriving at a tentative conclusion as to the possible activist potency of a playful, ecological walking practice.

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