Ng Yi-Sheng

September 4, 2015


I'm too jaded for this shit.

I mean, seriously, Keng Sen. Why? Just because there is a famous contemporary artist (assuming contemporary is, say, 1965) with a brand name to slap on a show does not make it contemporary. Just because we are wandering from tent to tent to tent does not mean we are engaged in, um, relational aesthetics or some other buzzword.

This is basic circus stuff lah. You watch Cirque de Soleil, Voyage de la Vie, also not so different. This is not cutting edge. I don't know if even got edge to try cutting or not.


On the other hand, as circuses go, this one's pretty cool.

I mean, it's visually very beautiful, as you'll see from above. That's Tantiana Mosio Bongonga, the high wire artist, doing the freaking splits on a tightrope while wearing a leather corset. She's accompanied by a singer, Oumou Kouyate, who's in a colourful West African headwrap and boubou and accompanies her as she teeters and totters with melodious somethings in Bambara (or some suchlike language; I am not an omniglot).

And it's all very analog - you can see them hoisting the net bit by bit at the beginning, while Kouyate sings and Moriba Koita (an instrumentalist) strums his n'goni. Maybe the best bit is that everything's quite close up, cos the tents are smallish - you get an intimacy that you don't get with any other circus setting. 

I think I also lucked out last night because the whole delegation from Kerala Kandalam was there too (they're doing Smriti Padha tonight), as well as a bunch of kids from a youth centre, and they were oohing and aahing and clapping like anything.

Some of the regular theatre crowd was there, too. One young man told me he wanted to marry both the highwire girl and the Juan Tula, the Argentine guy on the cyr wheel.


He was wearing a shirt when he performed here, so I wasn't all that engrossed. I spent my time joking about how the aerial silks artist, Bella Legrain looked like she was frolicking inside a giant mosquito net.


There were Asians, too - a pair of Cambodian tumblers, Sopheak Houn and Sarev Roun! They'd been designated to frolic amongst Daniel Buren's ubiquitous stripes, which, I'd like to say, are ugly not as good-looking as his colourful tentages.



Weirdest of all was this ringmaster who looked like a cross between Uncle Fester and the Marquis de Sade, who came in and explained to us how Buren is one of the greatest masters of art from the mid-20th to the early 21st century, because of his goddamn 8.7 cm stripes, which are supposedly inspired by 1) Oriental mysticism, 2) the measurement of his wife's body, 3) I forget.

The accent was strong on this one. I was also rather unfortunate to have him in my last tent, so we ended the entire show on a big WTF note.

So, yeah. It's a nice circus show. Bring your friends! Bring your family! Bring bread, since that's what circuses are best paired with during election season!

But if there's a deep conceptual insight buried in this one, it's not just postmodern, it's also post-me.

  • 2015