The Circus Dialogues was a two-year artistic research project (2018-2020) funded by KASK & Conservatorium (Ghent, BE) by Bauke Lievens, Sebastian Kann, Quintijn Ketels, accompanied by Vincent Focquet. The project investigated experimental encounters and exchanges between circus practice and theory. The Circus Dialogues followed on from Bauke Lievens’ four-year artistic research project Between being and imagining: towards a methodology for artistic research in contemporary circus (2013-2017). During this project, Bauke published the First (2015) and Second (2016) Open Letter to the Circus and organized the First (2015, KASK School of Arts, BE) and Second (2016, Cirque-Théâtre d’Elbeuf, FR) Encounter on Artistic Research in Contemporary Circus. Between Being and Imagining was marked by Bauke’s passage from being a dramaturg to making her own artistic work, with the creation of ANECKXANDER (2015) and Raphaël (2017), both co-creations with Alexander Vantournhout. The artistic research project ended in 2017 with the publication of a book titled Negotiating Distance: 2 letters and 3 conversations on artistic research in contemporary circus.

The Circus Dialogues was committed to defending circus as a field in which experimental thinking is already happening and can continue to happen, along multiple lines and across multiple idioms. With our actions we wanted to give space to a plurality of intersecting and contradictory voices. What we hoped would emerge from these encounters was a notion of circus as irreducible to one definition or essence. Rather, we imagined circus as a shifting and possibly empowering field of diverse practices, whose borders are and should remain undecidable. Our work delved into and made space for encounters between theory and artistic circus practice. The Circus Dialogues aimed to shine a light on the circus as a field in which experimental thinking is already happening, and we worked to ensure the ongoingness of such thinking in an artistic and institutional ecology that’s long-term sustainable. We did this first and foremost through our diverse artistic practices. In parallel, we organized reading groups and collaborative gatherings for circus artists. Our activities were conceived with the intention of helping to imagine the circus field as both important and political. Most importantly, we defended circus as an open and undefinable form.

The Circus Dialogues started out in 2018 with the publication of the Third Open Letter to the Circus, written by Sebastian Kann. In the same year we organised the Third (PAF, Saint-Erme-Outre-et-Ramecourt, FR) and Fourth (Chateau de Monthelon, FR) Encounter on Artistic Research in Contemporary Circus. In 2020, we published a book titled Thinking Through Circus, a heterogeneous collection of commissioned texts, written by people working in and around circus. The book was presented at the symposium Smells like Dialogue: A Circus Symposium at VierNulvier (Ghent, BE), which we organized in January 2020. At the symposium we invited circus artists, theoreticians and a wider audience to engage in exciting conversations about theory, politics and practice in the contemporary circus field. In the week leading to the symposium we organized a Thinking Through Circus-research week at KASK & Conservatorium.

The Circus Dialogues was a two-year artistic research project (2018-2020) initiated by Bauke Lievens, who is an affiliated researcher and professor at KASK & Conservatorium. Quintijn Ketels and Sebastian Kann were the associated researchers, and the project was accompanied by Vincent Focquet as an intern. The Circus Dialogues was financed by the Arts Research Fund of University College Ghent (BE). The book and the symposium were co-funded with the support of the Flemish Government (Department Youth, Culture, Sports and Media). VIERNULVIER, UGent (S:PAM) and Circuscentrum were financially supporting the symposium and research week.


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