Letter replying to Bauke: ‘My Definition of Circus’

Circus has many faces and many masks.

It is a person suffering from an identity crisis

Circus is a cheap whore:

She is selling her flesh to the market of sensation, wearing lots of aesthetics and makeup.

But from a lack of ethics, she is far from beauty.

Circus is a nostalgic old man:

He bathes in his knowledge and his tradition, as it is truly the only thing to hold on to, given lack of belief in the future.

Circus is a teenager:

Discovering and exploring his own physical potential.

He is burning with excitement and adrenaline, but living blind due to lack of interest in the bigger picture of art and its old masters and visionary artists.

Circus is a hippie, playing flute and spreading love, without true ambition.

All are false and all are true. However, must I confess this circus does not excite me very much at all!

Art excites me…

I am waiting for the circus to throw away the masks and show humanity, contrasts made visible by abstraction of the form.





Kus Quintijn

P.S. About the ‘risk’ in circus-performance…

I think that the challenge for true risk-taking among circus artists today lies not in the physical performance of acrobatic risk, but in the degree to which they push through an artistic identity and truly defend it.

To take the risk to do what they feel must be done, as the only true option of their artistic vocation.

Taking the risk to be called ‘avant-garde’ or ‘not very cirque-ish’ or even ‘boring’.

That’s daring! That is what is thrilling. Forget the false idea that a salto is dangerous, or that hand balancing or driving a unicycle is on the edge. Bullshit. Been there, done that, and it’s not the case most of the time.

Driving my bike in my hometown, Brussels, for one day is taking more risk than the sum of my ten-year career of bascule and hand-to-hand.

To take the artistic responsibility to create, to make mistakes and to start over again. To use these guts, necessary to learn an acrobatic / sport discipline and to torture one’s own body, AND to apply these same guts elsewhere… on a personal, human and artistic level.

So… what is it going to be?

Stick with this false romantic perception of bodies in danger? Or come to a more interesting state of ‘artists on the edge of their comfort zone’?

I think the comfort zone for circus artists is always protected by this false perception of risk. Hiding behind the skills and not really answering a question.

So called circus artists screaming:

“Hey… look at this and this … that’s also nice, right? I think that’s enough for a risk, no?”


NO… it is not.

Think again.


Quintijn Ketels is an artistic director of the company Side-Show. The above is a transcript of the presentation he gave at the Second Encounter at SPRING Festival in Elbeuf, for which he read aloud his original response to Bauke’s Open Letter.