In the two years since graduating I’ve kind of thrown myself in different directions – making my own work, working for others – from dance to puppeteering to doing an opera to making installations to doing any kind of visual art that comes into my head.

The word circus for me is actually the word sucric in reverse. And I say that because I’m really to be naive, and to see circus, or anything I try to do, as a therapy for myself.

I think many of us are in need of therapy in what we are doing or what we are saying, and therefore I think it’s good for me to reduce circus to a level such that an ordinary person – one who is just visiting the therapist – can understand what it is to have the same sensation. For example, you can reduce swinging trapeze to only standing without hands on the swinging platform. The trick is gone, but to a point that an audience member can kind of feel the same or be part of you.

I made one experiment as a cultural experience for the business world. We had a lot of balloons with a plank resting over them, and then we invited those very important people onto the plank. It was a tiny plank, so to be a group of twelve on there they had to hold each other, and be really close and sweating. Then all together the balloons pop, which is a kind of trick. Like this, circus for me becomes more a social experiment.

I often feel in a performance that there is too much distance between what is happening over there, on the stage, and the people who are sitting here, in the audience. Maybe they have fun, maybe not, but in the end they go home without experiencing a really close relation.

So at the moment I don’t want to limit my circus practice to performing it, but want also to use other mediums. I think a circus performance can totally be a video or anything else. I don’t want to limit it to performance; maybe I have some acts that are better as video. In a way, I would like to get rid of labels, even if that’s a bit idealistic.

Most of my experience of working with objects comes through puppetry, and what I like so much by comparison with circus objects is that with the puppetry object you erase your own ego. Nobody cares about the puppeteer; it is the object, moved by the puppeteer, that is the ego. In circus it is the other way round: oftentimes objects in circus are erased, and the performer is the huge ego. I think in circus there could be more attachment to the object as an ego instead of the performer as an ego.


Ruben Mardulier is a circus artist graduated from ACaPA in Tilburg. The above is an edited transcript of the presentation he gave at the Second Encounter at SPRING Festival in Elbeuf.