Development Work

”The Socio-political Dimension...” by John-Paul Zaccarini

Researcher: John-Paul Zaccarini

“The socio political dimension of circus” is a development work by John-Paul Zaccarini, Associate Professor of circus.

The starting point for this research is a confrontation between circus and political thinking. Here the term political should be read in Mouffe's definition of the word, that it is not the same as politics, and also in the way Badiou uses the word: to denote something that is not particularly the remit of politicians. There is a basic antagonism at the heart of circus – the struggle against gravity, the effort to keep many things afloat, the strain to remain balanced, the Olympic intensity required to maintain an illusion of flight – which in the end does not resolve anything or, in utilitarian terms, does not produce anything resembling a “social good” unless satisfaction itself can be considered a social good. Lacan has much to say about this notion of satisfaction, observing the trajectory of pleasure and usefulness from Aristotle to Bentham, but it is Žižek who properly makes the case for enjoyment as a political factor.

What is the claim that circus makes? As a way of living, as a perspective on living, what can it tell us about the human condition that is not being told in the countless narratives of theatre, in the movement choices or perspectival shifts made in dance or in the word worlds of poetry? Phenomenologically, the direction it chooses to face, what it has in its view, the lines it takes, how it disorients normative positions (literally, in space), how it clears new paths for movement to take place upon, it shares much ground with dance. However, what those specific paths, positions, directions and re-orientations are, whether slanted, upside down, indirect or "queer" have not been examined. This research looks to those novel positions and asks what import this may have politically, as a series of actions upon or choices within social space.