Circus – I love it

I watched this documentary on Storyville. It is beautifully edited with lots of intercutting and the soundtrack is perfect. No voiceover, just one section of specifically recored audio which make it even more significant and moving. Sadly I don’t think there is any sound on this video displayed here.

Circus brings together many things for me  from autobiographical memory which I now realise on reflection and re-considering the theory, impacts on my practice significantly, as described below:

  • Personal memory of family. Ritual visits to Blackpool Tower Circus and the Zoo upstairs with my cousins and friends, and birthday parties.
  • Local vernacular culture, poetry and rhyme read outlaid (Stanley Holloway reading Albert and the Lion.
  • The predictable ( glamorous attendants, the Water Finale, Charlie Caroli) and the unpredictable ( Falls from the high wire,tricks that went wrong, lions, tigers and horses…Yes I’m that old!)
  • The ‘Season’ of circus that comes round again and again – circular, seasonal nature of it
  • The tradition of Circus culture which travels to a space and transforms it temporarily,
  • bringing together locals and travellers communities and then disappearing.
  • The exceptional skill and artistry of the performers within a vernacular setting.

The field below Crouch Hill, where I have been making work and site of camps for the Siege of Banbury Castle, has been transformed by the Big Top these last few summers with this circus :

I have not read a lot of Bahtkin but am aware of his classification into four categories which describe the carnivalistic sense of the world seen when the circus visit!

  • Interactions which bring unlikely people together and encourage free expression of themselves as a group.
  • Eccentric and other wise unacceptable behaviour is welcomed and accepted without consequence.
  • ‘Carnivalistic misalliances’: carnival  has a familiar and free format which allows  things that are normally separated to reunite — Good and bad , young and old, etc.
  • Sacrilegious events of ungodliness, of blasphemy, profanity and parodies on things that are sacred can occur without punishment, as part of carnival.

For Bakhtin,these categories are abstract notions of freedom and equality.

These creative theatrical expressions manifest life experiences as sensual ritualistic performances.

Bakhtin notes that the carnival was confined in time, not in space, penetrating  the house as well. You can see this demonstrated by the children and families acting out the ‘acts’ on the way home and carrying their ‘circus toys’ to use at home, telling the stories  of the magic  they have seen.

He states that is did not exist just in the public sphere or town square. But the town square and its adjacent streets were the central site of the carnival, for they embodied and symbolized the carnivalesque idea of being universal and belonging to all people.
A world upside-down’ is created in carnival and  carnivalesque literature where ideas and truths are endlessly tested and contested equally in any dialogue.

The authoritative voice of the hegemony is de-privileged  by mixing  “high culture” with the profane ( spoken by  alternative voices within carnivalized literary text )

Bakhtin believed that within the space of literature such as a novel  there is a  the site of resistance to authority and an a place where cultural, and potentially political, change can take place.

I see this evident in Magic Realism in particular and feel this links with my personal methodology of trying to create a non-linear narrative within a combined local/ global space ,with a carnivalesque attitude through impromptu, intimate  performative vernacular action which is underpinned by academic research and theory.

Edit: May 2016 My use of a tent was originally for practical reasons when working on Crouch Hill- as protection in bad weather.

It has relevance here with the Carnivalesque and elsewhere….from a political point of view. Other elements are also present see for e.g  May 1st 2016 #Crouch Hill #apreoccupation



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