chapter  5
28 Pages

The Paradox of the Lady Acrobat

WithJennifer Forrest

Acrobats’ performances inhibit the production of meaning and are necessarily silent. The lady acrobat’s silence is demonstrably more disturbing than her male counterpart’s because of preconceptions about the social function and capabilities of her body. For some, her problematic gender puts in question the organizational foundation of society, and accordingly, some writers felt compelled to provide her with a script. As for adolescents, they have a more fluid relationship with the social-cultural codes into which they are being integrated; they confuse, however, the attractive liberating power of the lady acrobat with their awakening sexuality. The artist most receptive to this play of gender and desemantization was Jules Chéret, whose lady acrobats fly weightlessly into the space of his posters: they emerge from another world. The lady acrobat is a paradox, and she is the prototype for his signature chérette.