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Shadows and Wings: from Constraint to Freedom

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As we know, many things will never be the same after what we are living through right now. Circus and the performing arts, like so many other fields, will need to rebuild themselves to find meaning again. Through this specially curated exhibition from the Jacob William collection at TOHU, we tap the inexhaustible richness of the circus arts to offer circus history’s response to the current moment-- finding many surprises along the way.

In this exploration of notions of confinement and freedom, in their contradictory but also complementary forms, we see how circus has offered the public a window onto the otherwise inaccessible. Circus audiences flocked to the big tops to witness, to fear, and also to admire difference, beauty, unfamiliarity, and—in a way we no longer identify with—global diversity. Exhibitions of people and animals allowed audiences to see a wider world—but we now recognize that that their presence in these contexts was rarely voluntary.

Meanwhile, circuses also gave their audiences a glimpse of utter, total, and nearly unimaginable freedom. Higher and higher, the trapeze artists force us to raise our eyes to the sky, to contemplate their extraordinary evolutions, suspended in the air... Here and now, these paper acrobats invite us to dream with them. Come along with us!

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