This book examines how circus and circus imaginary have shaped the historical avant-gardes at the beginning of the 20th century and the cultures they help constitute, to what extent this is a mutual shaping, and why this is still relevant today.
This book aims to produce a better sense of the artistic work and cultural achievements that have emerged from the interplay of circus and avant-garde artists and projects, and to clarify both their transhistorical and trans-medial presence, and their scope for interdisciplinary expansion. Across 14 chapters written by leading scholars – from fields as varied as circus, theatre and performance studies, art, media studies, film and cultural history – some of which are written together with performers and circus practitioners, the book examines to what extent circus and avant-garde connections contribute to a better understanding of early 20th century artistic movements and their enduring legacy, of the history of popular entertainment, and the cultural relevance of circus arts. Circus and the Avant-Gardes elucidates how the realm of the circus as a model, or rather a blueprint for modernist experiment, innovation and (re)negotiation of bodies, has become fully integrated in our ways of perceiving avant-gardes today.
The book does not only map the significance of circus/avant-garde phenomena for the past, but, through an exploration of their contemporary actualisations (in different media), also carves out their achievements, relevance, and impact, both cultural and aesthetic, on the present time.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Arts for all Senses: Circus and the Avant-Gardes – Introduction
Anna-Sophie Jürgens and Mirjam Hildbrand
HISTORICAL CIRCUS, POPULAR ENTERTAINMENT AND AVANT-GARDES – INFLUENCES AND INTERRELATIONS
A Treasure Trove for Avant-garde Artists? Metropolitan Circus Performances around 1900
Circus, Dada, Vaudeville: Historical Avant-Garde – Between Popular and Experimental Theatre
‘Attractive Novelties’: Spectacular Innovation and the Making of a New Kind of Audience within Colonial Modernity
STAGING CIRCUS OUTSIDE THE RING: AVANT-GARDE EXPERIMENTS IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
Typocircus and the Czech Avant-Gardes
The Present as a Trick or the Assault on the Spectator’s Psyche: Circus and the Soviet Avant-Garde
STAGES OF TECHNOLOGY: CIRCUS, AVANT-GARDES AND (NEW) MEDIA
‘Like a Three-ring Circus’: The Avant-garde Appropriates the Circus in the Battle between Distraction and Attractions
The Animated Circus and New Arts of Motion
CIRCUS-AVANT-GARDE BODIES: CONTEMPORARY ARTISTIC PHYSICALITIES
‘Glitter and Broken Bones’: Professional Wrestling, Circus, Avant-Garde and the Radical Participatory Body
Glam Clowning: From Dada to Gaga – A Conversation with Le Pustra
Anna-Sophie Jürgens and Le Pustra
The Aesthetics of Queer Work: Loïe Fuller’s Exhausting Life as Performance Art in Stéphanie Di Giusto’s The Dancer (2016)
CIRCUS AND AVANT-GARDES REIMAGINED SINCE THE LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Political Clowns, Thrilling Strong Women and Animal-Free Excitement: Circus Reimagined through 1970s Avant-Garde Political Theatre
Jane Mullett and Peta Tait
Avant-Garde Gestures and Contemporaneity in Today’s Circus
Louis Patrick Leroux
‘Today for the last time’? On the Cultural Meanings of Circus and the Avant-Gardes – Some Final Provocations
Mirjam Hildbrand, Anna-Sophie Jürgens and Aiden Essery
Notes on Contributors
Anna-Sophie Jürgens is an Assistant Professor in Popular Entertainment Studies at the Australian National University (ANU), Australia. She is part of the network of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Her research explores the intersections between circus/comic performance, science and technology, and the cultural meanings of science.
Mirjam Hildbrand is a PhD candidate in Theatre Studies at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Her research explores historical circus practice, the intersections between circus/theatre, and the discourse of ‘high/low’ culture. She also works as a freelance dramaturge and a programmer in the field of contemporary circus.