A Circus of One
Duration of film: 16 minutes
16mm film transferred to video
A Circus of One is a 16 mm black-and-white film directed by visual artist Alison Crocetta in collaboration with composer Jason Treuting. This film records Crocetta as a clownish figure within a one-ring circus completing a series of eight acts that run the gamut from feats of daring to absurd gestures. These performance actions form a filmic garland with Treuting’s score that draws inspiration from historic circus music and the tradition of musique concrète.
The making of A Circus of One began with the process of building a 16’ long and 3’ high wooden seesaw. I wanted to walk the plank of the seesaw and use it as a tool for seeking balance. The subsequent objects constructed for the film were designed around issues of use and structure, resulting in a rather stripped down aesthetic. The scale of the wooden seesaw helped me establish an old metal hay barn as the backdrop for filming this circus. As is usually the case in my work, the site for filming began to inform and form the work in rather important ways. For example, the final action is my nod to the notion of a “disappearing act”. I wanted to film myself in this act of displacement as I stepped into a tub of water and seemingly disappeared at the end of the film. The metal tub used in this action was actually found at the farm. I was amazed by how many of these moments in my making came about, where the site gave me what the film needed.
During my research phase for A Circus of One I saw an Eadweard Muybridge exhibition and was inspired by the strength and simplicity of his films. Muybridge employs the grid as a method to mark time, record scale, map action and analyze form. When I found the side of the metal barn as a potential site for filming, I knew that its structure harkened back to Muybridge. The vertical lines at regular intervals in the hay barn are a constant reminder of what is straight. It seems that those lines help to site everything including the decisive moment when I perform a headstand in the middle of the film. It is the building that reiterates and measures the body’s ability to sustain a perpendicular position to the wooden plank.
A Circus of One was recorded on October 2, 2010. While I directed and performed, Jason Treuting was engaged in harvesting sound samples from the site. Jason describes his approach to the score in the following manner, “As the music for this project has come together, I've researched the history of the music for the circus: the march forms, the slower waltzes and the "ta-da" B-flat triad that accompanies the completion of a trick. I have attempted to combine elements of this circus music sound and tradition while also giving a feel for the place where this one-ring circus occurred as well as the nostalgia I feel from the performance in A Circus of One. I have mixed in sounds sampled at the site of the filming, including sounds of the props used in the performance and the barn at the site.” I wanted the film to appear that it was happening as a seamless event, where one action moved smoothly into the next. Jason’s compelling score both facilitates and disrupts this fiction.