Dear readers, dear artists, dear audience,
we are living in extreme times which show us that, in so many ways, things cannot and will not continue as before. With two years of corona behind us, still hardly processed, already the news of a real war in the middle of Europe is crushing us. At the same time, climate change is having ever more devastating effects worldwide. The question of how we want to live is thus all the more urgent. And how we want to make art now. How art can take responsibility at this point, how it can create friction, expose, challenge, and above all try out new ways of thinking. We think contemporary circus can be that kind of art. This emerging form of circus, which is establishing itself more and more in Germany, can contribute something to overcoming the current social challenges and can open up paths to an earth-friendly consciousness.
This year's edition of VOICES deals with the so-called non-human turn in contemporary circus. This buzzword can be used to summarize a variety of tendencies that are united by the concept of viewing human and non-human entities, objects or processes as equal and giving them equal attention. In contemporary circus, this way of thinking has been shaped primarily by Graham Harman's "Object Oriented Ontology"1 (abbreviated to "OOO") and has been brought into the circus scene via juggling – as an awareness that (juggling) objects have an agency of their own, that is, their own capacity to act, which makes the juggler(s) move. At the heart of "OOO" is the idea that objects — whether real, fictional, natural, artificial, human or non-human — are mutually autonomous. Karen Barad formulates it similarly in her concept of Agential Realism2, according to which, agency is detached from its traditional humanistic trajectory and can no longer be equated with human intentionality or subjectivity. For the circus, this means a new perspective on the role of the performer and on the handling of objects and apparatuses. It also means, as a consequence, that a new attitude towards the (surrounding) world is adopted. In the article "Footnotes on Mastery" from the collection of dialogues "Thinking Through Circus",3 celebrated in circus circles, Vincent Focquet calls for a "humble circus", meaning a circus that shows respect and attentiveness to the world around it and relates to it in a new way. Circus practice as a relational art form that is always about relationships (to the apparatus, object, partner, one's own body) offers a special space to go in search of future coexistences. Thus, the change of perspective in the non-human turn, reflected in many artistic positions in today's circus, appears as a — hope-bringing — consequence of the human overexploitation of the natural environment in the Anthropocene. The growing awareness of this overexploitation forces a rethinking of the epistemological and ethical subject-object models and the one-dimensional, anthropocentrically oriented concept of action.
Under the title "Re-Thinking Objects", this year's VOICES issue gathers artistic positions and perspectives on the above-described non-human turn in contemporary circus. In the article "(More than) Human? Staging Strategies in Contemporary Circus", Franziska Trapp gives a brief overview of different approaches to staging the non-human. The conversation between Saar Rombout, Darragh McLaughlin, Benjamin Richter and Jenny Patschovsky highlights three different attitudes towards (circus) objects and three different resulting forms of presentation. Marie-Andree Robitaille explores posthumanism as circus practice through her own artistic and scholarly work, relating it to our unanswered social questions. The interview with art professor Tillmann Damrau deals with the concept of presence and the aesthetic experience of presence as a new rhetoric for contemporary circus. The article by Tim Behren places selected festival pieces within concepts of the non-human turn that involve states, architecture and spatial experiences.
The 3rd edition of VOICES also aims to stimulate thought and discussion by taking up current discourses in circus today and making them accessible. Published by CircusDanceFestival, under the artistic direction of Tim Behren, it fulfills the aim of promoting knowledge exchange and discursive reflection and linking different fields of knowledge. This year, VOICES magazine is published as a preview: Der Verlag Theater der Zeit - in cooperation with CircusDanceFestival – is, on this occasion, dedicating its annual workbook to a current survey of contemporary circus. The book, entitled "Circus in Flux. Contemporary Circus" highlights various fields, artistic positions and spaces of possibility in contemporary circus, with a focus on Central Europe, and represents a milestone of its visibility. VOICES magazine will be included in the workbook as a bound-in special insert and will also be published as a limited preview in the context of the CircusDanceFestival.
We wish you an inspiring read and hope that it will stimulate thought and discussion. Here's to a circus of agency, equality and diversity!
Cologne, April 2022
1 Harman, Graham: Object-Oriented Ontology. A new Theory of everything. London 2018.
2 Barad, Karen: „Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” In: Signs. Journal of Women in
Culture and Society. Band 28, Nr. 3. Chicago 2003.
3 Lievens, Bauke / Ketels, Quintijn / Kann, Sebastian / Focquet, Vincent (Hg): Thinking Through Circus. Gent 2020.