The circus is one of the strange parts of performance culture and culture in general. It is something that has always drawn people, as it offered a unique world of magic, curiosity and suspense. The circus has evolved very much over time. Some things, such as extreme acrobatic acts have always been a part of it, others have disappeared. For example, during the 1800s, it was very common to see people who had different types of body malformations. Today, this aspect of the circus has disappeared and people like to think that this is not something dignified; however, “freak show” reality shows are everywhere and doing well in the ratings.
Either way, the circus is fascinating from many points of view: it is a place that acts like a world where the rules of common society are suspended and even though its aesthetics resemble the aesthetics of a brothel, the circus has always been associated with children. Can it be said that the circus acts in many ways as an initiation platform, as a rite of passage? Is the circus one, if not the first instance in which children are taught that there is something more, beyond the ordinary?
The circus is not a separate space from a cultural perspective, but from a physical perspective too. It all happens in a tent, indoors. The courtyard of the circus is generally well-defined and fenced too. Besides that, circus people travel from one town to another and never settle down: they cannot be integrated, just as the curious and the mysterious cannot be integrated in quotidian life.
From a visual point of view, especially from the sartorial perspective, circus clothes are often colorful, but have an official aspect to them. Magicians are dressed in evening attire, animal tamers resemble men of high military ranks and acrobats are clothed in refined dresses. Could this be a way of mirroring polite society or suggesting that there is another layer to the day to day society? Only the clowns seem to be “messy”, but they are the ones who get away with poking fun at everything and with the strangest of strange things. Because the stakes of what they do are so high, clowns must be covered with extremely heavy makeup. Just like soldiers dress in uniforms to lose their identity and thus the responsibility for the crimes they commit, clowns need to cover their faces to absolve themselves from the things they do or say.
The mad makeup, the diamond patterns, the glitter and everything else the circus is from an aesthetic point of view is also destined to blur the lines between the factual and the imaginary. Thus, people can rely on the fact that everything that is unconventional is not factual, that it may not be true. Thus, in an unexpected turn of events, the claim of the unreal can be invoked.
The circus is a gateway to the mysterious, the secret, the irreverent and, in many ways, the true. This is why, the original, non-corporate version of it fascinates and will continue to fascinate people most likely for many years to come.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
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