Keen on promoting knowledge of the
circus in Quebec and abroad, and in furthering the public's awareness of the
history of the circus and its many faces around the world, Cirque du Soleil
teamed up with Le Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City to produce Circus
Magicus, the first of its kind exhibit in Quebec. "We are proud to be able
to lend our expertise and our creative resources to a project that is
representative of the circus industry the world over," stated Cirque du
Soleil's president, Daniel Gauthier.
The exhibit took an intimate approach with the visitor. Witnesses, objects
of veneration and symbols in turn, the articles in the exhibit drew the
visitor close, adorned with the myth of those who have touched them, with the
legend of those who have used them, some clothed in an aura of glory, others
in disgrace. The exhibit's main objective was to underscore the extraordinary,
astonishing nature of the circus by highlighting the fascination it holds for
the so-called sedentary cultures.
|Dates: ||Jun.10.1998 - Jan.05.2003
|Status: ||No Longer Touring
Musée de la Civilisation
Jun.10.1998 - Mar.12.2000
Royal BC Museum
Oct.05.2000 - Mar.04.2001
Apr.06.2001 - Sep.09.2001
Kansas City Museum
Jun.29.2002 - Jan.05.2003
[ Concept |
The Artefacts |
Explore the magic of the circus, immerse yourself in a fabulous universe of wonder
and daring, laughter and emotion: this is the highly charged program awaiting
visitors of the Circus Magicus exhibition.
Circus Magicus leads us to discover a world in motion, always in search of new
challenges to be met and of new frontiers to be crossed. A prodigious gathering
of artistic expression as numerous as varied, some deriving from ancient traditions,
whether named Circus Maximus, Big Apple Circus, Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey
Circus, Cirque Archaos, Cirque Oz, Cirque du Soleil, whether traditional or
contemporary, the circus bewilders, the circus captivates... Through the history
and the great features of the modern circus, visitors of the exhibition are drawn
in to understanding the fascination it exerts, not only on the general public but
also on those who have made it a means of expression and, at times, a way of life.
Costumes, personal effects, apparatus, devices, masks, trapezes, scale models,
engravings, lithographs, musical instruments, posters... the 200 artefacts on display
in the exhibition derive directly from the circus; they belong to or once were the
property of circus performers from Europe, America, and the world over. They are
part of celebrated public and private collections. These magnificent objects, whether
ancient or contemporary, embody the spirit of the circus ring. They bare the unique
signature of a legendary artist, an outstanding performance, a revolutionary
invention or an extraordinary act of bravery.
Audiovisual displays also take up a major part of the exhibition. Presented together
with different parts of the exhibition are interviews with contemporary circus artists,
excerpts from archive films (such as training, risks and dangers inherent to the
profession), excerpts from shows, parades under the Big Top, performers' acts (clowns,
jugglers, etc.). And, though the circus is above all a visual art, music has always
played an important part : the public can experience different types of traditional
and contemporary circus music.
|The Circus in Three Settings
A short introduction to the exhibition pays tribute to public entertainers and
briefly relates the amazing adventure of the circus. The exhibition then moves
on to three of the aspects that connect the leading figures involved (performers,
creators and spectators): passion, imagination and sensations.
From its distant origins - modern circus with its 13-meter diameter ring dates
back to the end of the Eighteenth Century - the circus has forever dealt in passion.
Whether jugglers, trapezists, riders, tightrope walkers, acrobats, lion tamers or
clowns, the discipline and whole way of life of these artists of the road, these
great legends of the ring, are strong evidence of their passion. Body and soul,
they are dedicated to perfecting their art, to surpassing their limits, and at
times, even challenging death. With passing years and wide travels, the circus
has been exposed to exterior influences, ensuring its constant renewal. Passion
also rules when the people of the circus pass on their trade, from generation to
generation, either within the family or in specialised circus schools.
Authentic dream-merchants, the creators of the circus put their heart and soul
into the show, blending colour, rhythm and magic to stir up the fantasies of a
public in search of emotion. Along with the evolution of techniques, of fashions
and of the public's taste, circus style has greatly evolved and the somewhat wild
imagination of its creators has found new sources of inspiration. Through the
magnificence of its costumes, the splendour of its sets, the extravagance or
deliberate austerity of productions, the magic of lighting and music, the spectator
is carried away in a world of make-believe. In turn, the new generation brilliantly
revives the language of modern circus, drawing from the world of painting, theatre
World of odours and of unusual sounds, where the sublime mingles with the
grotesque, perfection with abnormality, where wild animals join forces with
mankind, where laughter often turns to tears, the circus meets this human
desire to be moved by unusual emotions and bizarre sensations. Here, surprise
and anguish, laughter and marvel are the key emotions. The public lights up at
the sight of elephants marching into the ring, of the tiger leaping through a
hoop of fire, of the acrobat chimpanzee or the juggling sea-lion... At times
tension rises giving way to anguish until the clown, -inescapable personage of
the modern circus- makes an appearance : suspense is dispelled, danger, dismissed.
The design of Circus Magicus speaks of passion, imagination and emotion, with each
of the three exhibition areas characterized by its own colouring and texture. With
velvet curtains, glimmering reddish tones and objects that seem to float in the air,
the first area (passion) presents an almost mystical ambience. The second area
(imagination) recreates the spectacular atmosphere of a circus ring surrounded by
the traditional ringside seats. The last area (emotion) leads to an explosive finale
where sound and lighting emphasize the effects of realism and surprise.
Here are few highlights from the more than 200 artifacts that you'll see in the exhibition Circus
Magicus, only at Under the Big Top!
- Copperplate depicting the Circus Maximum in Rome, about 660 BC. Original work on paper from 1599.
- L’acrobate. Cast of bronze statuette from the Roman period.
- Rope dancer engraving. Unknown artist from the 18th century.
- Wardrobe trunk belonging to the whiteface clown Punch. Using an act he put together
while imprisoned in Poland during the Second World War, he went on to travel across Europe.
- Reproduction of Karl Wallenda’s show costume.
- Costume worn by Gunther Gebel-Williams, who revolutionized the world of animal training
with his positive reinforcement techniques.
- Hand-painted animal costume from the Big Apple Circus, New York.
- Mary-José Knie's rider costume.
- Elephant head harness from Circus Knie.
- Bag, cone and mandolin by François Fratellini.
- Costume and juggling rings of acrobat clown Jean-Baptiste Auriol.
- Musical scores commissioned by Gilbert Houcke.
- Dolly Sisters miniature bike.
- Raoul Monbar's trapeze, platform, rope ladder and rope.
- Conduct record of animal trainer Bidel. Certificates of good behavior 1872-74.
- Menagerie. Built in Germany in 1865, it allowed the curious of all ages to see animals that they never knew existed.
- Grock the clown's costume, with origins in the 1880s.
- Barnum's Museum. "Over 200,000 Curiosities." Prospectus published in 1866.
- Photograph collection includes Eli Bowen, acrobat without legs; Sir Marcus Goodwillie,
weighing 996 lbs.; Annie Jones, the bearded woman; Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.
- Performing flea circus. Three-minute audiovisual presentation.
- Performing dog's skirt and costume for performing monkey.
- Photographic collection includes Eli Bowen, acrobat without legs; Sir Marcus
Goodwillie, weighing 996 lb.; Annie Jones, the bearded woman; Siamese twins
Daisy and Violet Hilton.
- Makeup of famous American clowns. Artifact collection.
- Clowns costumes. Worn at the clown school of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus.
- Reversible coat and juggling clubs of Rommy Hanneford. Standing on horseback at full gallop,
he took off his coat and put it on inside out between two somersaults.
- Program from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Printed in Paris, 1899.
- Two models of parade wagons from the Roy Arnold Circus.
- Sketch of the elephant blanket and head harness for the Rain Forest Show.
- Traditional and contemporary circus music. Six-minute audio includes excerpts of
compositions by John Phillip Sousa and Robert Miny.
- Whistle gloves. Used both as a prop and a musical instrument, the gloves
are played on both hands as each whistle sounds a different note.
The balancing mouthpiece of Angela Laurier's (Le Cirque Reinvente) and Vasily
Dementchoukov's balancing chairs (from Nouvelle Experience) were on hand. They even
had a Floune costume, Madame Corporation's costume and some items from Alegría: one
of the musician's outfits (complete with hair) and a bird mask. Not only were there
artifacts, but much, much more, including: video interviews, performance clips
and music. A wonderful collection of Cirque artifacts indeed!