UpSideDown—Circus and Space | Conference, June 28–30 2017, Münster, Germany
“In acrobatics, we say that we are lost, that is, we do not know whether it’s the top or the bottom, whether we are climbing or falling.” With these words, the circus performance Acrobates – une histoire d’art et d’amitié (France) opens by drawing attention to one of the major characteristics of circus: its special relation to space. The significance of space in circus is ubiquitous: Gravity & Other Myths (Australia) visualizes the spatiality of circus in their company name; Gandini juggling (UK) entitled their current show 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures; the performance Hans was Heiri, created by Zimmermann & De Perrot (Switzerland), is based on spatial scenic research; and in the cyr wheel act by Aimé Morales (Venezuela), the apparatus within the diegesis is used as a boundary to a mythic world. According to Paul Bouissac, it is even possible to attribute to circus “a sui generis spatial semiotics.” Over the last centuries the circus arts have been performed at different spaces such as the ring, the stage, and the street, highly affecting the public’s reception. Circus artists and shows are able to travel throughout the world and adapt to the prevailing cultural paradigms. Circus disciplines take up the width, depth, and height of three-dimensional space. Circus bodies defy gravity by turning themselves upside down.
This conference examines the question of space in the context of traditional, new, and contemporary circus through the lens of semiotics. Fields such as Liminal Spaces, Theories of Place and Space, Borders and Border Crossing, Performing in and Mapping Space, and Transnational Spaces may also be considered. Its aim is to deepen the knowledge obtained at the previous conference “Semiotics of the Circus” (2015), which was organized by the research project Zirkus|Wissenschaft (Circus|Studies) at the University of Münster, Germany.
Work cited: Bouissac, Paul: Semiotics at the Circus. De Gruyter: Berlin/New York 2010. p. 11.