| 2015 | Semiotics of the Circus
2015 | Semiotics of the Circus
International Conference
© Friedrich Schäper

Le cirque bouge, bougez avec lui!

France in the 1960s and 1970s:

The traditional circensic code becomes outdated in the performances of the developing genre New Circus. The artists in this new form of circus are no longer offspring of circus families, but rather graduates of accredited schools; animals are banned from the programs and the tent is no longer the sole place of performances. The performances of New Circus are based on the foundational circus discipline—acrobatics, object manipulation, and clownery—which are elaborated through theatric and choreographic elements. The goal is no longer to use a Babylonian buildup—which arranges the elements according to level of difficulty—to showcase the superhuman achievements of the artists and the exceptionality of the tricks; rather, with a symbolic system, the performance strives to become a kind of happening—a narration. The fundamental method of the constitution of meaning of circensic art is reconstructed.

The goal of the conference Semiotics of the Circus is to uncover—utilizing semiotics—how and under which conditions New Circus generates and conveys meaning independently of traditional circus.


We are currently working on the volume Semiotics of the Circus (working title).

  • Conference program

    | 15.4. 2015

    | WWU – Aula im Schloss

    15:00-17:00    Registration

    17:00-18:00   Opening: Prof. Dr. Moritz Baßler, Frédéric Zipperlin and Franziska Trapp

    18:00-19:30    Opening Keynote: Jean-Michel Guy | Cultural Ministry France: Le cirque, ça n’existe pas!

                19:30   Champagne Reception


    | 16.4.2015

    | Cirque Bouffon – Zirkuszelt am Schlossplatz


    Topic I: Semiotics of the Traditional Circus

                 9:00    Welcome-Coffee

    09:30-11:00   Keynote: Prof. Dr. Paul Bouissac | University of Toronto: The Traditional Circus as Trade and Art

    11:00-11:30    Coffee

    11:30-12:00    Katharina Rein I Humboldt University Berlin: Entertaining Violence: The Illusion of „Sawing a Woman in Half“

    12:00-12:30    Sara Benoist | University of Paris – Sorbonne: „Is there a MC on this Show?“: The Semiotic Recycling of Classic Circus Archetypes of Performers in New Circus Performances

    12:30-14:00   Lunch Break


    Topic II: Semiotics of the New Circus

    14:00-14:30    Gaia Vimercati | Trinity College Dublin: Chaplin, Brecht, Fo: Toward a Concept of ‚Epic Clowning’

    14:30-15:00    Sandy Sun | Circus Aerial Choreographer: Mutations of the Meaning and Aesthetics in a Trapeze Act

    15:00-15:30    Coffee


    | WWU – S8 im Schloss

    15:30-16:00    Ante Ursic | New York University: On the Tightwire

    16:00-16:30   Elena Lydia Kreusch | University of Vienna: Contemporary Circus and Spatial Implications

    16:30-18:00    Keynote: Prof. Dr. Philippe Goudard | University of Montpellier: What does the circus mean? A cross-disciplinary scientific approach


    | Cirque Bouffon – Zirkuszelt am Schlossplatz

    20:00              Cirque Bouffon: Quilombo




    | 17.4.2015

    | Cirque Bouffon – Zirkuszelt am Schlossplatz


    Topic III: Possibilities of analysing New Circus Performances

                   8:30 Welcome-Coffee

    09:00-09:30  Franziska Trapp | University of Münster: The Functioning of a Circensic Text – Jimmy Gonzalez ‘Clay’

    09:30-10:00   Katharina Görgen | University of Cologne: Completing the Circle: How Traditional Semiotics Reappears in the 30 Year Celebration of the Cirque Plume „Tempus fugit? Une ballade sur le chemin perdu“

    10:00-10:30    Coffee

    10:30-11:00    Jonas Eklund | Stockholm University: Longing for Something that Never Was

    11:00-12:00    Louise von Euler Bjurholm and Henrik Agger | University of Dance and Circus Stockholm: Extreme Symbiosis

    12:00-13:30   Lunch Break

    13:30-15:00    Keynote: Prof. Dr. Camilla Damkjaer | University of the Arts Stockholm: The Circus Body Articulating

    15:00-15:30    Final Discussion



    | WWU – Festsaal am Schlossplatz

    15:30-16:30    Coffee

    16:30              Zirkus | Wissenschaft – Strategic Planning Session

    20:00              Dinner