Lindsay Greer, University of Southern Indiana
About This Work
Ladies and Gentleman: come one, come all, to the circus of memory. The three rings of faded claws and lion jaws where the trapeze swing into nets of stars. For a quarter you can watch the magic fall into a dustpan and be swept away as the circus leaves town.
My body remembers the circus. It remembers the awe and repulsion it felt: the knots twisting in the stomach as a lion growled hungrily from inside of the dark cage. It remembers the smell of popcorn, sweat, and the sawdust caked with elephant piss. My body remembers the process of making a film as my fingers hold traces of the paint and emulsion caked under the fingernails. It remembers the hours spent scratching the film with the force of a memory returning until my back and neck ached. My films use handmade techniques like scratching, painting, and salvaging to create images that fade and flaunt like the residue of dreams. Similarly, the mention of the circus conjures dreamlike images that swirl like aerial performers up from the unconscious. The circus is a spectacle of nostalgic curiosity. The longing for the circus is a cultural yearning for an imagined sense of authenticity: one that seems just beyond the reach of our culture of replication and simulation. As Arrighi points out “the very terms through which the circus described and promoted itself were tied to innovation, invention, and novelty (and, of course, the curiosity, wonder and amazement these qualities sought to stimulate in its audiences)” (Arrighi 182). Whether or not the novelty advertised by modernity ever really existed is up for debate, but it remains romanticized through its absorption into hipster culture. Old technologies are reborn in the display cases of Urban Outfitters. Circus arts are the new yoga. The ongoing fascination with film is, much like the circus, arguably linked to a desire for an imagined moment of authenticity. Film materializes our fingerprints clasping at the moment passing, pointing to a ghost that flickers onscreen and then disappears, one that haunts our eyes with the persistence of memory.
Arrighi, Gillian. “The circus and modernity: A commitment to ‘the newer’ and ‘the newest’.” Early Popular Visual Culture 10.2 (2012): 169-185. Print.
Lindsay Greer is an assistant professor at the University of Southern Indiana. Her research and creative interests combine Performance Art, Feminist Historiography, and Media Archaeology. She holds an MFA in Media Arts and Mass Communication from SIUC and has exhibited films in such festivals as the Coney Island Film Festival, Atlanta Shorts Festival, Strange Beauty Film Festival, and the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival among others.
© 2015, Lindsay Greer, used by permission