This book examines how circus and circus imaginary have shaped the historical avant-gardes at the beginning of the 20th century and the cultures they help constitute, to what extent this is a mutual shaping, and why this is still relevant today.

This book aims to produce a better sense of the artistic work and cultural achievements that have emerged from the interplay of circus and avant-garde artists and projects, and to clarify both their transhistorical and trans-medial presence, and their scope for interdisciplinary expansion. Across 14 chapters written by leading scholars – from fields as varied as circus, theatre and performance studies, art, media studies, film and cultural history – some of which are written together with performers and circus practitioners, the book examines to what extent circus and avant-garde connections contribute to a better understanding of early 20th century artistic movements and their enduring legacy, of the history of popular entertainment, and the cultural relevance of circus arts. Circus and the Avant-Gardes elucidates how the realm of the circus as a model, or rather a blueprint for modernist experiment, innovation and (re)negotiation of bodies, has become fully integrated in our ways of perceiving avant-gardes today.

The book does not only map the significance of circus/avant-garde phenomena for the past, but, through an exploration of their contemporary actualisations (in different media), also carves out their achievements, relevance, and impact, both cultural and aesthetic, on the present time.

chapter 1|16 pages

Arts for all senses

Circus and the avant-gardes – introduction
ByAnna-Sophie Jürgens, Mirjam Hildbrand

part Part I|56 pages

Historical circus, popular entertainment and avant-gardes

chapter 2|18 pages

A treasure trove for avant-garde artists?

Metropolitan circus performances around 1900
ByMirjam Hildbrand

chapter 3|16 pages

The present as a trick or the assault on the spectator's psyche

Circus and the Soviet avant-garde
ByOksana Bulgakowa

chapter 4|20 pages

Typocircus and the Czech avant-garde

ByAnne Hultsch

part Part II|46 pages

Staging circus outside the ring

chapter 5|18 pages

Circus, Dada, Vaudeville

Historical avant-garde – between popular and experimental theatre
ByMartina Groß

chapter 6|26 pages

“Attractive novelties”

Spectacular innovation and the making of a new kind of audience within colonial modernity
ByMartyn Jolly

part Part III|36 pages

Stages of technology

chapter 7|17 pages

“Like a three-ring circus”

The avant-garde appropriates the circus in the battle between distraction and attractions
ByTom Gunning

chapter 8|17 pages

The animated circus and new arts of motion

ByKristian Moen

part Part IV|58 pages

Circus-avant-garde bodies

chapter 9|16 pages

“Glitter and broken bones”

Professional wrestling, circus, avant-garde and the radical participatory body
ByClaire Warden

chapter 10|23 pages

Glam clowning

From Dada to Gaga – a conversation with Le Pustra
ByAnna-Sophie Jürgens, Le Pustra

chapter 11|17 pages

The aesthetics of queer work

Loïe Fuller's exhausting life as performance art in Stéphanie Di Giusto's The Dancer (2016)
ByWesley Lim

part Part V|51 pages

Circus and avant-gardes reimagined since the late twentieth century

chapter 12|17 pages

Political clowns, strong women and animal-free

Circus reimagined through 1970s avant-garde political theatre
ByJane Mullett, Peta Tait

chapter 13|15 pages

Avant-garde gestures and contemporaneity in today's circus

ByLouis Patrick Leroux

chapter 14|17 pages

“Today for the last time”?

On the cultural meanings of circus and the avant-gardes – some final provocations
ByMirjam Hildbrand, Anna-Sophie Jürgens, Aiden Essery