Thesis Abstract:   This paper debates the role of performance in London at the turn of the 20th century using a collection of archival photographs from London’s National Portrait Gallery. Taken by photographer Cavendish Morton, these images depict a variety of artists and performers associated with London’s artistic community between the years 1900-1930. Performance as it is mobilized through out this paper, is both the topic of historical inquiry and the methodological approach for investigating this history. Through an analysis of the broader social circumstances surrounding the production of these images, performance is illuminated as being an integral mode of cultural exchange in British society in the early twentieth century. The liminal or transitional space created through acts of performance gave entertainers of various genders, ethnicities and class the ability to exert their own agency, manipulate dominant stereotypes and influence British audiences. On space of the stage, the medium of performance had the capability to cross the borders of difference between people, culture and place. As a mode of anthropological inquiry, performance provides a method for conceptualizing the production of these intercultural artistic spaces in the present as well as a unique analytical tool for examining the performative aspects of the practice of photography, archival research and the history-making process.     *A version of the thesis was published in the journal Early Popular Visual Culture
Cavendish Morton Collection at the NPG
UCL 2010
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