Fraying Parachutes: costume agency and ‘convivencia’ in contemporary circus performance making

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Fraying Parachutes explores from a choreographer/facilitator’s perspective the agency found in the costume making processes during Femme de Feu’s Circus Sessions 2019, in which three abandoned parachutes were upcycled and transformed into circus costumes. It traces the journey from conceptualization to ad hoc design, involving de-construction and much physical entanglement, to the eventual wear and non-wearability of the costumes in performance. Bringing together fourteen artists from South America, North America and Europe, the embodied research that informed this work took as its foci: positive receptivity, hospitality and fascination as qualities and modes of creating collectively. The experimental circus costume making processes provided an opportunity to physically expand upon theories of agential realism and entanglement, in relation to the material and the social. The re-purposed parachutes served as constant reminders of flight, suspension, risk and rescue, qualities that are innately present in circus technique and performance. In ‘rescuing’ the parachutes from landfill, the work also gave visibility to an ecological ethic in performance making, or what Tanja Beer refers to as a practice of ecoscenography, where issues of waste and sustainability may be addressed. Underscoring this essay will be the notion of convivencia or a literal ‘living with’ other and the non-human as essential to process and performance. Distinct to a co-labouring of ideas, in Circus Sessions, convivencia encompassed our creative entanglements, the friction and flow in artistic decision making, our discussions, reflections and laughter. It would also attune our listening to epistemologies of the South, to the diverse cultural perspectives and sensibilities that the different performers from three continents brought to the project. In this visual essay, costume agency is understood as a tensile potentiality that generates creative energy informed by the serendipitous opportunities found in the sensory binding of costume making processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-267
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Costume and Performance
Issue number2
Early online date1 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021
EventCritical Costume 2020: Costume Agency - Oslo National Academy of the Arts. Online, Oslo, Norway
Duration: 21 Aug 202023 Aug 2020
Conference number: 4


  • circus
  • Convivencia
  • vital materialism
  • parachutes
  • costume agency

Research Groups

  • Practice Research Group


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