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Second Relay Interview:
Extracts

The relay interview creates a space in which you can interrogate a fellow circus artist, in depth and without time limit. It is a strictly structured form of conversation that allows the participants to dig deep in a reasonably short time.

Floor van Leeuwen
In the last performance you were part of what were the things you gave attention to?
Tim Behren
"The last piece I made was a piece about wrestling, called Carnival of the Body, and a big topic was contact with the public – because in this performance we play with the fake and the real, which of course is a topic that comes out of wrestling. In the performance we play with the public, give them various moments of fake and real, and so we paid a lot of attention to the gaze. In this performance I was very close to the public – close enough that I could observe them, their gazes. At the same time I was confronted by this gaze, so I had to deal with the question of how to take the facial reactions and how much to let them influence the performance."
Quintijn Ketels
In a collective creation process what is the weakest point?
Floor van Leeuwen

"The ego. What makes collective work difficult I think is that you share the power in your structure, and yet if you have an idea that you want realised you still need to deal with power. The power relations start moving around. Some people have better ideas than others, for instance. And then while working on a performance these things sometimes get in the way of being busy with the work; you can end up being more busy actually with the social dymanics of the group."

Ruben Mardulier
When I was 12 years old I saw you as a performer in Hopla Circus. Is there something from that experience that you still hold onto now when you create?
Quintijn Ketels
"I think the most important message was to be subversive. Because what we did at that time was really subversive – we were often censored by festivals who said we could not do this or that. It never fitted in truly, I never 'arrived', and this internal struggle is something that I keep going. If it gets too easy, if it gets too mainstream, too accepted, then there's really something wrong."
Bauke Lievens
In a way we could say that the creation process is a struggle. What's the place for struggle in your artistic practice?
Ruben Mardulier
There's maybe a struggle in the fact that my artistic practice is in many fields. Even when you're only practicing one discipline it's hard to have an overall sense or knowledge of a field – its major movements or creations.
Camille Paycha
As a dramaturg, how is it to work with someone else's project?
Bauke Lievens
"It depends – on the group, and on the encounter I'm having with the artist. I think often in the collaborations I've had I struggled a lot with my position as a dramaturg because nowhere is it written down what a dramaturg should do, or how you position yourself, so it's a very kind of fragile position which is able to be influenced by social dymanics and artistic ideas. My experience is that struggle on the level of artistic values or ideas can be a very fertile thing as long as humanly it's OK. If it's a struggle on both fields then it gets really, really hard. In a collective it's difficult, because you have been asked by one person, who often is the initiator of the project, to be there, and then the other people involved in the process didn't necessarily ask for a dramaturg, and so there's often a lot of resistance there as well."
Sebastian Kann
How have you seen gender play a role in your experience of circus?
Camille Paycha
"Maybe because I'm a girl doing straps and it's supposed to be a male discipline I cannot escape it. My style is the opposite of girly, I would say, and often I deal with gender using humour or just by taking distance from it."
Quintijn Ketels
What is your relation to technique?
Sebastian Kann
"I'm really aware of an allergy to the kind of disciplinary technique that I totally internalised and saw as my own desire in circus school... I've been dealing with technique in a pretty radical way a lot recently, so I have all kinds of abstract ideas about it. For me it still remains at the centre of circus, but I don't anymore draw an equivalency between technique as such and the kind of physical technique that I have a little bit of an allergy to."
Tim Behren
At what point in a creation process do you ask yourself, OK, what techniques do I need for this?
Quintijn Ketels
"Never. I don't start with this question. It's like something that's left or not left at the end of a long travel. For me, at the end of the process, if the technique is not there anymore then the rest of the show is the residue."
Bauke Lievens
I see many shows that I think are problematic because they don't make a division between what is practice and what is creation or performance - or the practice is the theme of the creation. Do you agree?
Tim Behren

"I started as a porter of acrobatics, and now I see my work as that of a choreographer. In the dance world, in the warm-ups for example, it's already leading somewhere for the creation and going towards the rehearsals – they were preparing the physical state of the body. We prepare, we use words to get us in a certain way of thinking that later could serve the creation... And in circus I saw often this separation – for instance, when I worked with a trapeze duo they needed a certain preparation, and also when I was working more with hand-to-hand technique they always needed one hour before we started to prepare this and that – so this is disturbing me a bit. You did your preparation, so now we can work. It feels very disconnected. So now I'm really searching for how to work in the morning, how to do something together – that's often my main problem."

Sebastian Kann
For you can a show have an incorrect dramaturgy?
Bauke Lievens
"Yes. I think it has to do with not being conscious of what you're representing. That would be for me incorrect dramaturgy. In circus, for me, incorrect dramaturgy would be not being conscious of the discipline, the technique, or how technique functions as a disciplinary mechanism of the body. I think it's a lot about choice – being conscious of what you are representing so you can choose to present or represent certain things."
Camille Paycha
Do you think a circus artist showing technique in a performance is being selfish?
Sebastian Kann
"I think the question of value, and the way value is produced and reflected within dramaturgies, is very related to this idea of wanting to put all of your technique into a particular piece. I think that there's a tendency to want to put all of your technique in because there's an understanding that you on stage are producing value for yourself as a person versus producing value for the dramaturgy that's outside of yourself as a person."
Bauke Lievens
To what extent do you think that in a circus performance there are dramaturgies that exist outside of you as a person?
Camille Paycha
"I find I have more and more ideas for others rather than for myself, and I get a bit stuck in my own thing. I'm talking about straps, so it limits me a lot... The disciplines that I don't work in are much more inspiring than my own practice, which is annoying. I don't think straps is necessary in any way but I put it in... I still think it's a bit selfish – not in the way that it's for me but more in the way like, 'Why would I not do straps?' I'm good at it and it's what I trained for."
Ruben Mardulier
In circus many people feel a huge nostalgia for what has already happened rather than what is happening today. Do you think there's a certain limit to what you can talk about with circus?
Bauke Lievens
"I really don't know. I ask myself this question very often. I have the feeling that we are going through this phase of modernism in circus, which means there is a lot of circus going to this question of what is the medium of circus – like in painting, for example, when all the different characteristics of the medium become independent. But also in my own work, and when I see circus, I always come back to this relationship of discipline, which is so present in technique, and then you can choose to go with it or you can choose to try to propose alternatives."
Quintijn Ketels
Could you choose five words to describe your own work?
Ruben Mardulier
"One thing that comes into my head is that I tend to be interested when a circus body becomes more practical than virtuosic. Honestly, I don't know if that relates to my own work rather than to taste. I also question a lot the nostalgia of circus – it can be in a very concrete thing, for example a costume. Work I'm doing now about challenging the body that I have in durational situations, for example. How only one movement is something in itself – I try to not let other things disturb that image."
Ruben Mardulier
What do you think about duration in circus, and why did you decide to make a trilogy of works?
Quintijn Ketels
"When I made the first piece it was not the idea to make a trilogy. After we made it we thought, 'Ah, there's something missing, it's open-ended, this is just the beginning'. For us it was an invitation to go further. Duration is something I'm really questioning now because I'm designing another project that I'm working on. I'm having a hard time writing the application because I see it as an ongoing creation over ten years, and actually the premiere happened the first time we showed it. I think what you see a lot is really standardised, pre-chewed, pre-fixed things that are made to fit the market. But if you try to be as close to the work as possible then the time of the creation is often when these sorts of answers are formulated."
Sebastian Kann
I don't get this focus on practicality. I look at the work in Europe and I see it creates work in which form or ornament is cast aside as superficial, and then the studio work becomes about stripping away to find a kind of essence. Could you maybe reflect on where this trend comes from and its relevance to your own work?
Ruben Mardulier
"I don't think I get to the essence by stripping off. I start from a kind of essence, and I think the essence for me is the kind of intense relationship we can have with an object or another human being. I think that is already an essence to use."
Tim Behren
In the last research that you did were there words that you really needed to redefine?
Sebastian Kann

"Agency is commonly understood as sort of like free will, but it's like my ability to follow through on what my ego wants – so it's my capacity to act in the world. But philosophically and I guess scientifically it seems pretty clear that agency is something that happens between the body and the environment. So it doesn't exist in the body in a vacuum, but is always produced by the way the body is related to a certain material, and also let's say cultural environment, and so in circus things come across often as if the body on stage is making all the decisions and the objects/choreography are produced by the body wanting them to do a certain thing rather than the trick appearing as the body giving a certain amount of force or agency to the object and the object returning a certain amount of force or agency to the body."

Camille Paycha
In your own work how much space do you give to your own design?
Tim Behren
"There are may positions dramaturgically which start from conceptual grounds. That's really important because there are a lot of questions at the start of a creative process – Who do I choose to work with?, Where do they come from?, What disciplines do they work with? – for which the concept is an important factor. The concept is very important, so the artistic research that I would do before the creation would be to kind of to try and prove or try out the concept that I made on paper. For me artistic research is always linked to creation. I want to really involve the performers that I'm working with because it doesn't make sense if I design and they just do."
Quintijn Ketels
Can you describe something you're looking for but did not find?
Camille Paycha
"I think my biggest problem is considering circus as a medium – that's the thing missing in my work, a discussion of medium. And maybe the key is to think in an interdisciplinary way – to be free from any medium and then just to pick what is needed for the idea. But then where does circus come in? I think this medium thing is the problem because we never ask a painter, 'Are you practicing or are you doing something artistic?'"
Bauke Lievens
What is a medium?
Quintijn Ketels
"It's a definition of a frame of the tools used for an expression."
Sebastian Kann
Does circus start from a concept or does circus generate new concepts? And if circus were a medium what would it mediate?
Bauke Lievens

"Intuitively I would say it should generate concepts, but I guess that answer has a lot to do with the experience of having seen too many circus shows that try to put forward a concept but totally fail at doing that. But I guess if we say circus should be art then I guess it should generate concepts.

When I say that we have to find out what circus can be as a medium I mean with that that we should find out if there are certain things that are specific to circus and I guess specific to circus as a form because there's always the same things coming back. I have the feeling there are certain things specific to circus that I don't see in other performing arts, or maybe that I see in other performing arts but not in the same constellation."

Floor van Leeuwen
Can we make a distinction between different genres of performing arts based on the different ways the spectators look at them?
Bauke Lievens

"In circus I think you are much more in a triangular relationship, because the relationship to the audience is often mediated by an object. So very often in circus you don't actually look at the performer, you look at the performer via the object.

Something else is the stressing of the co-presence of spectators as a community – you find a lot of circular audience set-ups – which I think reminds the spectator much more that he or she is looking together with others."

Bauke Lievens
Except for the value to the practitioner, what could be the value of repetition in a performance?
Sebastian Kann
"I'll give you a very concrete example: I was working with a woman who was doing rope and we were trying to figure out how to compose intentionally in terms of the form of the composition as a whole – dealing with different kinds of variations throughout let's say a ten-minute piece We started with climbing and sliding, dealing with different tempos, different heights, and we tried adding some technical elements, and it was harder to see heights and tempos as an element of the composition because there was so much variation on the level of the form of the body – and then when we tried putting in just one trick that repeated, all of a sudden what came out was the form of the composition rather than the form of the body."
Tim Behren
Why is the constant redefinition of a medium necessary?
Bauke Lievens
"I think in my practice as a dramaturg one of the main important things for me is that form and content are intertwined – and that if you change something about the form then also the content will change, and if you change the content also the form will change. And this is why for me it's important that every piece gives a kind of temporary definition of its form."
Ruben Mardulier
You used the word musicality – does that word come from your background as a dance choreographer, or do you also use that word in the circus world when you're working as a porteur?
Tim Behren

"Yes, it's a word from the dance world, and for me it's already in the training. In dance, for example, music is a very important part of it that's kind of always there. In dance we work with music so there's already a communication with something external – circus is often seen as something very individual – an individual bubble of the technique – and there's a lack of tools about how to communicate. So this training of musicality, which has had its place in dance for a long time, for me also trains a way of communicating with something external."

Quintijn Ketels
Can you tell me something exciting?
Ruben Mardulier
"I did an experiment where I was experiencing weight and time in a very heavy way. We were sitting on a balance with two persons, and then we decided that one of us could not eat anymore during the whole experiment, and that the other one would be fed like a duck to make a difference in the balance. I did that experiment two days ago, and after eleven hours and ten minutes I touched the ground – sitting on a platform and having to catch my own vomit to keep my weight."
Floor van Leeuwen
What does the word 'discipline' mean to you?
Quintijn Ketels
"I think discipline for me means a strict, rigid format. For me, discipline comes with my memories of piano lessons, it comes with observations of army drills, it comes with my experience of circus practice, it comes with the obsessive behaviour of people who are aiming towards something – because it takes away the rational to go that far. It's like closing so many doors just to be able to stick with this discipline. I have a strange relationship with this because I've hurt myself very much believing that discipline was the only way to follow, and I still believe it. There's a part of it that's true, and discipline I think, for making work as an interpreter and following instructions from outside, I think it's important to have this capacity of working with discipline – to be able to take away the reason, take away judgement, and just try to be open with that."
Sebastian Kann
How do you relate to pleasure and the institution of theatre and how do you see them connected?
Floor van Leeuwen
"Pleasure – I don't work for pleasure, I work for the spectator. I work for the piece, so my pleasure is irrelevant in the work I'm doing. But I do get pleasure from giving a lot of attention to something, or from devoting myself to something simple."
Floor van Leeuwen
You said before that part of a dramaturg's role is to ask questions that confuse you... Why would you want to confuse me?
Sebastian Kann

"Dramaturgy is a way of producing the incorrect because I think sometimes if we manage to produce exactly what we imagine then we end up with things that rearticulate what's already imaginable. And I also think the spirit of putting things into question is a way of producing choices in a process where perhaps none appeared before, encouraging what is not sensible or not fashionable or not appropriate, or maybe just under-appreciated. I think it often moves things in a direction that opens up more new territory than making the right decision."

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