Clown - Failure
It is not easy to identify the exact historical evolution of the clown. There exist many similar characters in several different tradi-tions, one of which is the Italian Commedia dell’ Arte tradition from the 16th century. The role of the clown, as was that of the jester, has often been to turn a mirror on power and humanity and this role has been considered sacred in several cultures.
The circus clown presumably emerged around the year 1800 as characters whose purpose were to fill the intervals between different acts of vaulting – the dominant circus skill at the time. Soon thereafter, the clown began to develop independently into characters such as the white clown and Auguste. Since its appearance the clown discipline has expanded and in contemporary circus you rarely see the traditional clown with his red nose.
Something called the "modern clown" has emerged through the work of different clown masters and their schools, and is now fully integrated in contemporary circus and in the stage training of circus education. One tendency is to work with a grotesque form of humour with a concentration of social criticism. Here, the focus is not slapstick and performing tricks, but to shine a spotlight on social vulnerabilities and the many things we are not allowed to do according to the norms that govern society.
Another tendency in contemporary circus is to show the person behind the extreme performer. This is often done through the aesthetics of the clown and his attitude towards failure and success. A typical example exists in the work of Cirque Petit where "anti-tricks" are used. These stunts are not arduous in reality, but they are per¬formed and presented as the most difficult and fantastic tricks in the world.
From the book Inside a Circus Heart by Tilde Björfors & Kajsa Balkfors Lind.