Contemporary circus is a young and highly interdisciplinary genre. Originating in the 1970s in France, contemporary circus has since become an international and independent art form of its own that redefines circus as a new kind of performing art.
It is hard to decide on an aesthetic characterization of the genre because contemporary circus is defined, above all, by its diversity. It is a hybrid that both aims to critically examine previous circus forms and to break the boundaries to other art forms and genres. While traditional circus is all about creating a spectacle and places its focus on presenting incredible artistic feats, established circus techniques in contemporary circus are no longer solely a matter of performing, but are also a means of artistic expression for the performers. Contemporary circus uses elements out of theater, dance, music, performance art, and new media, among other things, and so creates a multifaceted language.
While in many foreign countries, contemporary circus has long been an established part of their cultural landscapes, the public image that prevails in Germany is dominated by the traditional circus companies and the highly developed Varieté scene. In Germany, contemporary circus is perceived to be on the fringes of society, and has only gradually acquired a small area of cultural awareness. By contrast, contemporary circus finds itself internationally in a continuous state of creative innovation, not least due to its established status.
Contemporary circus makes culture easily accessible through its strong physical and visual language, and it speaks to an intercultural and an intergenerational audience. Its emotional power enables a low-threshold access to participation in culture and cultural education. Especially in the current political and social context, the field of contemporary circus promotes international cooperation and intercultural networking for its production as well as its reception.
Contemporary circus is not acknowledged as an independent art form in Germany and is therefore excluded from cultural funding. This lack of recognition presents German circus contributors with the fundamental question of how they can finance and actualize their projects.
We demand equal treatment with other EU nations in the area of cultural funding. We refer to the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity (www.unesco.de) and on the existing EU funding programs such as Creative Europe and other long-term cultural programs that promote all cultural disciplines.
When looking at other nations, we see that countries that have modernized their education structure in the field of circus and have implemented supportive measures, have a living, diverse circus scene that produces professional companies and productions. These productions tour internationally and regularly perform worldwide in great theaters and opera houses. In countries such as France, Sweden, Canada, and Australia, contemporary circus has been firmly established for many years. Like contemporary dance, it has been given an equal place next to other current forms of art. From a diverse education to a functioning and subsidized ‚Performing Arts Value Chain’ – research, creation, production, performance, distribution, commercialization, evaluation – these artists and companies are being supported and promoted in their work. Because of this, they can make an important contribution to social cohesion and become an integral part of the cultural economy.
A closer look at the structures of internationally prestigious companies of contemporary circus shows that all of them have been supported by their respective governments, and even more: are dependent on governmental support. With that support, they have a decisive, competitive advantage over all German contemporary circus contributors.
All over Germany, there are multitudes of creative, highly talented contributors of contemporary circus, who actualize their projects and productions from their own resources. There is no deficit of talent, ideas, or creative drive in Germany. It is the tenuous and unequal production conditions, which put German circus projects at a disadvantage, when compared to international companies, and this ultimately leads to the realization of only a fraction of the artistic possibilities in Germany. As a consequence, theater venues in Germany depend heavily on subsidized, foreign productions.
We demand the recognition of contemporary circus as an art form in Germany, and that its contributors receive equal access to the current funding structures available in order for them to further grow and develop.