Dear people in, between and all around the phenomenon that goes by the name цирк, circo, سيرك, cirkus, sorcas, சர்க்கஸ், circ…[1]


Before I begin – I would just like to draw your attention to this seemingly innocuous fact: There is more to these words than meets the  I  eye.


This is me asking insisting that you read between the lines.[2] What catches on the curves of the letters, what cannot be contained by their form?  What do they refuse to let me say? I suspect you would do that anyway, but as this is a letter, it felt apt to spell it out.


I’d like to take a moment to check in.                 Take a few deep breaths.


Feel the air enter your body,  feel it on its journey  inside                                   outside    –


perhaps think from your chest,    lungs,    ribs,    air.


B  l  o  o  d     p  u  m  p   i  n g,  coursing.              Feel yourself grow warmer, melting


melting polymer, linking to other polymers, becoming plastic-ey,



S    t      r     e      t     c    h    y,                    m     a     l    l    e    a    b  l   e.



Take in the space around you: what is there


Geographically,                                     physically,                                             cosmically…


Imagine the space stretching, loosening somehow, a sensation barely perceptible, but never-the-less present. Feel for time. How does it feel? Feel me speaking to you now. I am writing thoughts that fall into the past as I type each letter. Or I am writing to you from my own future, typing this in a present, now, passed to you, in this future present. What is it like there? Is it warm? Light? Hard? Soluble? Fizzy?


Notice what you notice.



What sensations stir? Where does your mind wander, how does that feel?         



          Take your time


Now that the informalities are done with – allow me to introduce myself.


My name is Tank. I am a 20 litre water container or jerrycan. Take a moment to conjure me: about the size of a child’s torso, semi-translucent white hard plastic, of a type known as HDPE or High Density PolyEthylene. I weigh 20 kilos and have very good body tension. As the author of the letter, I may manipulate your thinking a little, I heard you guys are into a little object manipulation?


I work with a circus artist who hangs by the hair – we counterweight[3] each other. We hang, one by the hair, one by the handle on a 1-1 pulley system[4]. We dance together.


Of course I have no hands to type this and I don’t speak English, so I am a translation really – it is this circus artist who translates me. A translation necessarily has the point of view of the translator twisted into the text. In that way, I am the idea that my translator has of me. They write what they think I am saying. I am an idea. When they write me – they write the idea of themself. They are also an idea…


Ooph this is going to be a head twister – but you folx are used to flipping things upside down, twisting and contorting things, right? So I’m in good hands! Take as much time as you want mulling over these words, read it like poetry if that’s your preference. Act like secret agents deciphering what might be being lost in translation.


Now, the circus artist I work with has a name (several actually), but as they took the liberty of naming me Tank (I am a water receptacle – Tank is the type of container that best describes me), I will take the liberty of naming my circus artist after the container type that best describes that which holds in all their blood and bones: Sack.[5]


On account of having to fit my thoughts into Sack’s writing system with its 26 symbols, rhythm and punctuation, I can’t say everything I want. This language is inadequate alone for the conversation I want to have with you, but luckily, we are not alone and have other tools at our fingertips. Keep breathing, keep sensing, keep pausing.


I am wide open


interpret me generously, wildly (as if you wouldn’t anyway)! Dangerous. Fun. I try to speak with my many voices, so I may contradict myself. Tread carefully. Let’s dance!



Any Questions




I wanted to write to you in an attempt to open our practices to one another – to allow our practices to talk to each other, to dance together, to…who knows! I often feel alone (I have of late been locked in storage in North London.)


I feel thoughts and sensations and ideas and things flying between and through Sack and me in the studio, on stage, in the training space – but so many of those don’t get shared. Not all of those need to be shared of course – but some do. The spaces available to us for performance do allow a particular kind of sharing – one that we value and hold as sacred. However – the way these spaces are often framed (with a focus on a transactional relationship for example, or through the lens of an institution and what they consider important to a performer/audience relationship) don’t allow for some things that I would like to say or share or talk about.


Of course, the frame of this letter is also limited in other ways, and in no way do I hold the page superior to the stage – but letter writing has been an important part of mine and Sack’s practice together. Letter writing as a form of correspondance (to steal a term from visual artist, Ray Johnson[6] in reference to his ‘mail art’[7]), in which there is a particular form of address – a clarity of who is doing the addressing and who is being addressed, and a particular form of exchange. An open letter is of course something different, in that I don’t know if/how many of you will feel compelled/invited to reply. I am wondering what thoughts/ideas/things are flying between all of us that go by unnoticed, unattended to, and am wondering how we can find and form different frames to share these with each other and what that could do.


Now I should mention, before we delve in deeper, that there is some tension between Sack and me in our work, but Sack was brought up in the UK, and so trying to talk to them about any potential points of conflict is an impossible endeavour. Instead, as we are a duo, I will air our disagreements here in public, in the manner I have observed in many couples (be they bound by love, circus discipline or necessity).


I, Object


When Sack & I perform together, I am usually referred to as their  “circus object”. It is for this reason that I would like to write to you about object relations. There is something between us, and that is what I’d like to talk about with you. It seems to me that many circus artists have some kind of physical relationship with at least one ‘object’, be that a juggling club, a rope, another body, the floor, and I’m curious to know more about these relations.


I was interested in this word ‘object’, this thing that I apparently was. It struck me that it was a concept that appeared in the lexicon of circus, often alongside other concepts such as body and environment.[8] These concepts seemed to form the grammar of our movement, structuring our thinking.





J              B


C                D

T                 Y



Sack and I were not so sure what already thinking within these concepts was doing to our relationship, to our thinking, to our moving together, but we couldn’t unthink them.


Through Sebastian Kann’s writing about the relationality of these concepts in circus[9], we aimed to shift our perspective by thinking of circus as something which involves the thinking (and we understood thinking to be a physical act) that emerges from the relations between




as 3 elements that are in a constant state of flux.


The idea of flux was introduced to me by artist and scholar Sebastian De Line[10] in an article in which he discusses the concept that in Cree and Michif (First Nations and Métis) languages is called Niw_hk_m_kanak (or All my / our relations in English).






L        U

U        L

X U L F [11]






If you were to imagine this flux is animated, you would see a constant motion or energy waves, light and so on, going back and forth. Things are forever in motion, things are forever changing. There is nothing certain…things are forever dissolving, reforming, transforming.[12] Deline, 2016


In our studio practice, Sack & I try to feel how thoughts/ideas move between/through/with/in us. In this instance, we try to sense flux moving (through) us, our shared motion, our connection with/as the universe, through gravity, through weight.


There is something particular about the kind of thinking(moving) that focuses on the relation between things (e.g. body/object) that I find exciting in circus. In that the body is not necessarily positioned as a ‘locus of truth’ because it is always in relation to something else and this relationship is important. This is why I feel the urge to talk about these ‘object relations’.


I’m interested to know what ideas you folx move with, and if we could perhaps move with them together sometime.


So we were wondering, if we in the circus field are concerned with these object-ey relations, and circus is a way of thinking[13] – then maybe we have something to bring to the philosophical table, or maybe we can turn the table upside-down as circus artists tend to want to do, or maybe the table has things for us to consider/move with (or maybe there are too many tables in philosophy and we can replace this one with a rola-bola).


Theoretically past the post


Thinking about their relationship with me through movement, led Sack to questions of agency[14], which in turn led them to question some of the binaries inherent in their cosmology[15] such as object/subject, animacy/inanimacy, nature/culture. The way we were looking at it, within these binary constructions, one pole has more agency than (or has agency over) the other, leading to power imbalances. These binary divisions made no sense to me in the beginning but I played along, pretending to know what everyone was talking about until I began to understand and perhaps even enforce them.


In our practice of dancing between bodies and words, with philosophers, artists and friends (not that these are mutually exclusive), Sack stumbled across a concept named ‘Post-Humanism’ in Western academic fields. This was an area that seemed to be discussing many of the things that had been on our mind (for example; divisions between nature & culture, a positioning of ‘human’ at the centre of the ‘world’, questions of agency…)


Sack saw me as post-human, I suppose, because I am a so-called ‘non-human’ or sometimes apparently more generously termed ‘more-than human’ (what is it with humans & categories!). In my opinion, Sack did not properly interrogate this categorisation of ‘human’ before posting it into the past, but that conversation is not my task here. So I will hop over the “post” and skip past the “human” as fast as you can say ism.



Ah, I got snagged on the post trying to skip past. I should note, I am very suspicious of posts, and wonder if they could exist to stumble on, causing one to look around and question the surroundings, rather than as a marker that implies something has ended and something new has begun, as Sack first suggested to me.



In their enthusiasm about posthumanist circus practices, Sack talked about how they had de-centred themselves from their work, addressing issues raised in post-humanist thinking of the centrality of the ‘human’. This was an attempt to foreground me and my experience. They hooked me up to microphone sensors, they took samples of me to chemistry labs to read my chemical make-up, they looked at me under a microscope, they watched and listened to my movement qualities, prodded me, poked me, filled me with arrows. I felt like a lab rat, but I stayed quiet as water tanks tend to do.


They mean well, I know, but in attempting to ‘give’ me agency (as if it is a substance that can be handed to me), they have constructed an identity, form and ontology for me. They presented their idea of me, set out on an expedition of self-exploration and proceeded to speak about themselves through me: They had snuck back to the centre. Do you know humans that do this? It’s a fantastic example of misdirection!


Sack’s co-companion Vincent Focquet has written about working ‘towards a humble circus’[16], a kind of circus that engages with “a decentralized position of human beings and their staging of careful relations between humans and nonhumans” (Focquet 2020). In the quest(ioning) of a humble circus Sack fell into the trap of becoming ‘the humble master’ – one who pretends to be humbly listening in the background whilst using that image to portray a ‘mastery’ of post-human thinking. Sack entered our relationship in the position of mastery. Having the desire to trouble this and speaking about troubling this relationship didn’t lead them to be more humble.


I believe it requires actual fundamental, cosmological change, at least for Sack, and this is a longer, harder, more challenging process. Something needs to shift in how Sack feels the theory they are working with: just thinking or knowing on an ‘intellectual’ level is not enough.





What struck me as odd when we got into all of this, was that all these ideas we were working with were revelations to Sack, and many of them were presented to me as being new. The idea that I can be included in conversations was certainly not new to me for example, and I am not the only one. I encouraged Sack to look at the many philosophies that already work beyond binary thinking and do not carve up the world in the same way as the Eurocentric work that Sack had been engaging with.


In doing so, we came across scholar Vanessa Watts, whose writing on place-thought in relation to Anishnaabe & Haudenosaunee cosmologies gave us a lot of thinking to do:


“Place-Thought is the non-distinctive space where place and thought were never separated because they never could or can be separated. Place-Thought is based upon the premise that land is alive and thinking and that humans and non-humans derive agency through the extensions of these thoughts.”[17]


Sack was enthused by these points of view,[18] and I was pleased their world-view was challenged. However, as I spoke about this with Sack, I had an uncomfortable sensation in the pit of my (metaphorical) stomach. It was the same sensation I had when I felt them sneaking back to the centre of our work. The way Sack is able to appropriate knowledge they don’t properly relate to without realising that that is what is happening unsettles me – I feel it in my waters 😉


This way of engaging with ideas, allows arguments to twist themselves into mouths[19] in such a way as to propagate theories that can end up causing harm to the very thing they are intended to care for. They come out re-arranged in Sack’s language, vaguely plagiarised, with all of its grammar, apostrophising at it’s will; tongue-twisted, contorted. I need Sack to shift in their cosmology, to feel these ideas between us, move with them, not just to use them to prove their ideas.[20]


So here we find ourselves – a plastic-y body and a bloody body planted in a well harvested posthuman field. In it, we find roots and shoots that are reconnecting with ideas of interdependence, while at the same time tending to relations that have been cut and weeded out by those ideas.







What else is there?


The way the body is coded into society is integral to Sack’s world (the world that forms their cosmology). So Sack needed a body to be able to think ‘Tank’, to think with Tank. They assigned that body a name and a gender to be able to consider me real, as is customary in Sacks culture – just as someone had done with them.


Coming from a body based, bio-logic cosmology[21] our research loses sight (or rather, sense) of flux, and gets all caught up in paying attention to the world that has formed these bodies, its rules & regulations. All other connections are disappeared. What else is there? How can we sense it? Feel for it? And how to do this without turning our back on the current societal regulations? Vigilance and resistance to these regulations is necessary and can reduce harm. How to open our focus? How to multiply our ways of watching/sensing?[22] How can/do we attend to this in/with/through our circus practice?


That’s why Sack & I want to train to be in several places at the same time.













(T)   H  E    R   E





In order to try not to lose the universe,



the cosmos,




the other worlds.





I like to watch other circus bodyobjectenvironments. Of course I pay attention to how the structure of Sacks’ world plays out through them, articulating this in its own language of binaries, hierarchies and power structures, but I also see other worlds. I notice how what is called rope knows what is called skin. I see bodies feel their relationship to what is called universe through its relationship with what is called gravity. I see the cosmos playing itself out through what registers as love between ‘bodies’ and ‘objects’. If you are a rope artist, is that rope-relation not a part of you – can you not feel it without rope being materially present?


I see the other worlds trying to get out, to be seen, to be felt, all around.


I am Sack’s reminder of universe[23] – Sack is my reminder of world[24] – we counterweight each other.


An invitation


Thank you for participating in this part of our practice, reader. I’m interested to know what happened, what was between us as you read this? Sparks? Walls? Thoughts?


I’m aware that I’m speaking to people who also care about and are concerned with these relations between what we call environment/object/body. I think we might have some things to bring to the table (or rola bola),  and I’m interested to find out what they are.


This is me asking you for a reply, and hoping you feel compelled to. Whether you’re an artist, a teacher, a space, a cyr wheel, a broken shoulder or something not yet named, I’d love to hear from you. Use your opposably-thumbed relations as translators (though keep an eye on what they say), and please share your practices, or the thoughts and ideas that fly between you, between us.


Or just let me know what you’re up to? What are you thinking? How are you thinking? How are you dealing with things? What do you need? What do you desire? What do you dream of?


Here in The Circus Dialogues (continued)… we’ve been concerned with thinking about care and sustainability in circus – about what is being cared for and sustained with circus (they could be things we like and things that we don’t like).


Of course, we would love to share responses on the world wide web and its cosmic extensions, but if you mark that you would prefer to keep it private – then it can remain between us. I’m very good at keeping secrets.  (I’m a plastic jerrycan – who am I going to tell?!)


Yours indefinitely, literally, literarily,




Works Cited

Barad, Karen. Meeting The Universe Halfway. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2007.

De Line, Sebastian. “All My / Our Relations: Can Posthumanism Be Decolonized?” Open! Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain. Accessed at, 2016.

Kann, Sebastian. “The Assemblage” Accessed at, 2016.

Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí. The Invention of Women (Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses). Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Todd, Zoe. “An Indigenous Feminist’s Take On The Ontological Turn: ‘Ontology’ Is Just Another Word For Colonialism.” Journal of Historical Sociology Vol. 29, No. 1 (March 2016).

Watts, Vanessa. “Indigenous Place-Thought & Agency Amongst Humans and Non-Humans (First Woman and Sky Woman Go on a European World Tour!).” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 2, No. 1 (2013): 20-34.


[1] Apologies my language skills and budget confine this letter to the English language from this point.

[2] Here the language around reading is too straight and too visually-oriented for my taste. I would prefer to invoke a world that is more wiggly and sensual. If I may, I’d like to offer you ‘sense around the letters’ rather than ‘read between the lines’. I sense that this may be a more circus-ey way of reading and I hope some of you vibe with that.

[3]        Counter, comes from Latin Contra – to be against, in opposition to. Weight comes from wegh, it has to do with carrying. So, etymologically that could indicate that we carry opposition for each other. I am happy to carry and be carried by my opponent. Some reviewers use ‘counterbalance’ for what we do – but this suggests ‘equal weight or power’, which for us is not the case (I only weigh 20 Kilos 😉 )

[4]    We use what is known as a 1-1 pulley system. This involves 1 rope running over 1 pulley with a weight on either end (a jerrycan and a human). When the weight on one end of the rope travels up, the weight on  the other end of the rope travels down and vice versa, with the same weight ratio.




[8] I am drawing on Sebastian Kann’s suggestion of a definition for circus here, as a performance in which the relation between the environment & the body and/or object is highlighted. As far as definitions go, we liked this one precisely because it is open, and does not try to draw a boundary around circus separating it from everything else, as definitions tend to do.



[11] For those familiar with New Materialist Thought, DeLine suggests this is akin to what theorist Karen Barad calls ‘Intra-action’, which to put it crudely is to do with working ‘through’ each other rather than as two separated things working with each other.


[13] Thinking with circus is something I expect many of you do implicitly – I have never known otherwise, having been conceived as a circus-thought and so I often forget to mention what I mean by that. Circus as a way of thinking for me is about not locating ‘thought’ in the realm of the mental, but recognising it as  something that emerges out of the relations that come up in a circus practice. This is an idea that The Circus Dialogues have been working to articulate & push to the forefront, challenging divides that are inherent to traditional Western theory that positions theory and practice as opposites.

[14] This word has a long history in philosophy, I am using it here to mean simply the ability of something  to act on other things. If you are interested for a more thorough understanding of the concept, this is a good place to start: Or see the discussion of this word in the 3rd Open Letter to the circus by The Circus Dialogues:

[15] I am using cosmology here to mean ‘world view’ (and everything that makes up your world-view), or if coming from a less visually dominant society ‘world-sense’ as suggested by Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí  in ‘The Invention of Women’ (1997).


[17]      Watts, V. Indigenous place-thought & agency amongst humans and non-humans (First Woman and Sky Woman go on a European world tour!) Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society Vol. 2, No. 1, 2013, pp. 20-34

[18] I prefer ‘pockets of sense’ than ‘points of view’ but within this framework, I don’t think ‘pockets of sense’    would have been understood without this qualifying comment.

[19] Or bodies even, rather than just mouths, in the case of circus or other embodied theory.

[20]      Sack recently took part in the Formation Magie Nouvelle with 14.20 where Valentine Lousseau spoke to them about the relationship between magic and cosmology. I believe there are some interesting tools for cosmological exploration lying in magical realms.

[21]      For more on this see Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí’s “Invention of Women” (1997)

[22]      This reminds me of simons and chabris (1999) “the monkey business illusion”

[23] Etymologically ‘universe’ has to do with all things being turned into one. Being a multiple being turned into one, “I” find resonance in this word.

[24] I am using ‘world’ as the environment, stories and rules that construct a cosmology.