Utrecht University, Netherlands; Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK), Ghent, Netherlands
Bio: Sebastian Kann is an aerialist, dramaturge and theorist based in Brussels. After training aerial hoop at the National Circus School in Montreal, Sebastian went on to earn an MA in Theater Studies from Utrecht University. He currently works at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) alongside Bauke Lievens and Quintijn Ketels, researching new circus dramaturgies (The Circus Dialogues). Sebastian is engaged in a circus project with Natalie Oleinik under the moniker Manor House; their first show Always/Beautiful will be premiered in 2019.
Title: Circus as a Practice of Ecological Thinking: How to Give the Others of Circus Practice Space to Come to Expression?
Abstract: Circus, especially in its traditional forms, has recently been roundly criticized for staging a politically retrograde vision of the subject. Bauke Lievens, for example, sees “the mastering of physically demanding, dangerous techniques and the taming of wild animals […] as expressions of a belief in the supremacy of humankind of nature and over natural forces such as gravity”. In light of the social and environmental crises wrought by the ideology of humanist individualism, it would seem that such styles of human self-representation should have no future.
In contrast to this supposed representational content of circus performance, I examine the experiential content of circus practice: the circus artist does research in dialogue with multiple embodied and incorporeal Others, composing ‘thoughts’ in concert with a whole host of images, discourses, objects, institutions and material environments. The ‘trick’ is the immanent product of this heterogenous ecology.
Therefore, what would it mean to take circus seriously as an embodied research practice, one in which thinking is radically distributed between the artist and other kinds of agents? By narrating circus differently, we open up space to imagine new circus dramaturgies – performances which function as sites of speculation, prefiguring less individualistic and more ecological modes of being in densely populated worlds.