A few things floating around on the BBC…
This post is not particularly relevant to circus, skip to here if you want circus reading material.
Every 12 months I make a list of remarkable stuff I think worth sharing. There’s no affiliate links on this, it’s just for my pleasure.
This year I moved to Glasgow so a couple of the categories are centered around my new neighbourhood.
Here’s my list from 2017…
Things worth watching;
Stuff worth owning;
- Jono Smart cups
- Aeropress coffee maker
- Patagonia R3 Fleece
- Ashmei Hoodie
- Hiut Jeans
- Keen walking boots
Things worth listening to;
- Hideaway Podcast – Circus interviews from New York
- Moral Maze – Think deeper
- Revisionist History – Journey through the misunderstood
- FiveThirtyEight Politics – Statistical based US political analysis
- Portico Quartet – New Album
- The Young’uns – New Album
Places worth eating/ drinking at in Glasgow;
Places worth eating/ drinking at in Stockholm;
Places worth visiting;
Tactile is a a book by the late Luke Wilson.
That’s all the information you should need.
Luke Wilson is a Juggler
Juggling and other touchy subjects. A collection of essays, blogs and rants.
Some of these pieces are new, and some of them have been rewritten or reworked. But many of the original words first appeared in the pages of Kaskade or Juggling Magazine, or on the screens of the CircusGeeks.co.uk blog or eJuggle.org eZine.
Gandini Press are delighted to publish “Tactile” by Luke Wilson, with layout and design by Pola Brändle and introduction by Jay Gilligan. Some of the most thoughtful and considered writings on juggling and the subjects surrounding it.
Limited Hardback only, 100 pages
I’ve opened my fair share of novelty-act shows over the years, after my short performance I’ve gone back stage and been quizzed about the audience by performers who were yet to go on. I remember one partular act whould ask me the same question every show, day after day, week after week and I’d answer the same everytime, it became a slightly odd ritual.
We are subjective judges on how an audience reacts to our work. Circus is a particularly difficult art form to do this real time data collection, we physically cannot give the audience all of our attention, all of the time. We cannot impartially survey our audiences reactions while on stage.
Trying to judge if a group of strangers (who are often in the dark and mostly invisible to the performer) are enjoying our work by the noises they make (often covered my music) is probably not an effective data set worthy of any meaningful analysis.
On top of this, the person doing the data crunching is often the person who has just been collecting the data and is doing this post-show digestion after or during an adrenaline rush. Far from an impartial investigation on how one did and what the audience thought of us/our work.
I find the same when I’ve got off stage after group performances I’ve been in. Often performers who have been in the same piece, onstage at the same time have very different interpretations of how an audience was/enjoyed/understood the show. These opinions seem to have a lose correlation with their own success in the show, if ‘performer X’ had a good show (in terms of executing technique) then the audience was positive, if ‘performer Y’ had a bad show then the audience was negative.
If it’s impossible to get an impartial analysis from being on stage we probably shouldn’t give post show feelings based on our own experience too much attention. But where else can we turn to if we want to learn from our mistakes? We are forced into a feedback loop which we know is flawed but is the best we can rely on given the budget, time and context which the average circus performer typically finds themselves in.
And this is to say nothing about the artistic quandaries about playing to the gallery.
“Every night, after every Penn & Teller show we’ve ever done, Teller and I go out and meet the audience…
Doing this for forty years has made us different from other entertainers. The only feedback other performers get is onstage, so if a crowd is quiet, other entertainers are bummed. But we go out and talk to people, and often the quietest crowds contain the people who are the most enthusiastic and kind when we meet them after the show, when it’s one on one. When I’m seeing a show, the better it is, the quieter I am. I can barely bring myself to applaud when I’m watching (Bob) Dylan. I’m afraid to lose my concentration, to break the spell. After forty years, Teller and I have grown to trust and enjoy the quiet audiences.
You could point out that this is a self-selected sample— that the people who come up to us and wait to meet us are the few people who liked the show, while the rest of the quiet crowd really hated us. You could say that, and you might be right, but you’d be a prick.
Jillette, Penn. Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales (Kindle Locations 2004-2014). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition. “
It’s never too late to run away from the circus….
The years are flying by and yet there still remains much to be done. Luke’s teachings are still echoing in my ears and his friendship still strong in my memory.
“You remember that time when we were in the desert doing that thing, and those crazy guys turned up all talking crazy about the end of worlds, and then that little Mexican kid took our photo and sold it to us for a broken pocketwatch?”
Recordings of performances that need to be uploaded, a book to be published and lessons still left to be learned. Through our actions we keep Luke alive.
Sam Veale is the go to person for juggling in adverts.
If you ever find yourself in the unlikely position of waiting to go in for audition for the role of juggler in an advert and Sam walks in, you can be fairly sure that going home early won’t be a mistake.
In this short 10 year anniversary video Sam reflects on a particularly cool project.
12 years ago when I went to study circus at university there was a reading week but no reading list, either required or recommended. I don’t know if there’s one now but I thought it would be an interesting challenge to come up with my own list.
The following consist of things I wish I’d been more aware of before taking my degree. My list would have given me things I lacked in 2005 (and perhaps still do).
Some entries provide a wider understanding of circus and related activities such as side-show and magic. I have not included books on the history of theatre or dance as they were included in the course syllabus. For some inextricable reason, the history of circus was not covered on the course. Others entries on the list are featured as an attempt to deepen the students’ knowledge of the creative process and the real world application of such a process.
The UK circus student reading list
- The Circus
- An Introduction to Contemporary Circus
- UK circus time line
- Tactile by Luke Wilson
- Everything on Sideshow, particularly this
- Philip Astley
- P.T. Barnum
- Cirque du Soleil
- Art & Artifice
- Panorama contemporain des arts du cirque
- Every trick in the book
- Celebrations of Curious Characters
- Strange feats & clever turns
- Everything is a Remix
- Steal like an artist
- Show your work
- How music works
- Intuition Pumps
If I’d consumed all this stuff I would be in a better position to take a degree in circus.
After sharing this article a couple of people suggested some additions…
Charlie Holland, author of one of the books on my list suggested the following…
“I normally did a couple of film lectures (at The Circus Space) and recommended ‘The Golden Age of the Circus‘ by Howard Loxton, as an accessible introduction, and ‘The New American Circus’, by Ernest Albrecht.
The UK circus timeline you link to was iirc derived in part and with my permission from my fuller version (with a couple of small errors I’ve never quite been arsed to correct!) at http://palaceofvariety.co.uk/page24.htm
For those interested in the development of circus acrobatics, I cannot over-recommend Strehly’s ‘L’Acrobatie et les Acrobates’ http://gallica.bnf.fr/m/ark:/12148/bpt6k882577q/f17.image – a book that really should be translated into English by someone, one day.”
I aspire to be a skeptical person, but try to step back from brink of cynicism. I struggle to make my mind up on how I feel about the concept of quotations. When I see a vague statement written in fake handwriting on a wall like, “Love is the string to my bow” I can’t help but feel disgusted. Can one really distill the complexities of life into a glib sentence?
Yet, when I come across an idea that has resonance with me I try and find a sentence that concisely sums it up and add it to a quotation note on my phone. Hoping that at some point I’ll read it back and find it useful. A shortcut to the memory of an idea.
At the front of my physical notebook I write a few quotes from my collection. I’ve just started a new notebook and have four quotes from Luke Wilson on the inside cover. I’m only now beginning to work out how I can use them to guide my work.
Perhaps the whole subject of quotations for me boils down to, “I like quotations but only when I’ve curated them.”?
“The technique should be a necessity of the performance.”
“The technique is the major tool that we have to communicate our intent.”
“Innovation is creating the right trick for the right moment.”
“Be aware of what you aim to do.”
I will do anything to impress you.
For those who like magic and politics:
Nice interview by Team Zero Safety with wire walker, Rick Wallenda.
It’s Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain this weekend and there are two UK acts taking part, perhaps a milestone for UK circus.
One part of me thinks the contest element is stupid, how and why does circus compete in any meaningful way? Why does this format still exist? Apples and organgutangs etc.
Another part of me recognises that the festival launches careers, it showcases amazing artists and it has a historical significance which has had a direct and indirect impact on me. Mark Robertson competed for goodness sake!
Demain always reminds me of Luke Wilson. I think back to Luke and Ilka competing as LukaLuka in 2003, the fist Circus Space alumni to reach a truly internationally respected circus platform with their own work.
Luke had a great story of meeting Francis Brunn at the festival. Francis asked to see his hands, saw they were all callused and broken and said, “Good”. Luke was immensely proud of that.
Luke returned to the festival stage in 2011, he got picked to be a volunteer for a pickpocket. It was slightly set up as Luke had been given objects specifically for the act. As Luke pointed out, he would never utilise a belt and braces at the same time, for obvious reasons.
I’m proud of the NCCA, it’s so excited to see artists go through the UK system and come out on a level on par with the rest of the world. LJ and Korri are a credit to the progress being made in UK circus and obviously they’ve also worked crazy hard to get into the festival.
Good luck to them both and the other artists involved in the festival.