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Dark Circus

Dark Circusis a collection of self-portraits produced in London during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Towards the end of March, following a few days of disbelief regarding the situation, I started to spend more and more time in my studio. I got taken by surprise by what emerged: a photo series inspired by the circus, a world I have no knowledge of nor particular interest in. Gradually, as I played with the makeup, fabrics and costumes I had accumulated during recent years, I came up with characters who became my imaginary models, replacing those who I couldnt photograph in real life. I got fonder and fonder of this strange circus troupe performing for an absent audience. Some characters are waiting in their dressing rooms in a state of uncertainty, much in the same way that the pandemic forced me to pause my regular artistic work.

I needed to get away from the deserted streets, the worrying news and the online madness. As Blanche DuBois says in Tennessee WilliamsA Streetcar Named Desire: I want magic, not realism!

Alone in my studio, I started reflecting on the meaning behind the circus, and how we sometimes need a time and place to escape and recreate a parallel world where our daily fears, happinesses, hopes and desires appear in new clothes. I see circuses as dark places full of disguised people lit by artificial light who tell you stories and lies which nonetheless, for a few fleeting moments, you believe. It is impermanent, built in a no mans land, away from convention, away from normal life.

Borne out of the frustration of not being able to photograph people, filled with the desire to connect, I started to like my characters, and began to understand them: the tight-rope walker who has vertigo, the target woman asking for our help, the Siamese twins who appear to be a trick made by a very lonely person. They all seem to be having a hard time, unsure whether the circus is a refuge or a prison, themselves trapped in sometimes grotesque images of entertainment. I recognise in them my desperate desire to celebrate life in a time of uncertainty and tragedy. Somewhere in this Dark Circus , there is an underlying sense of hope and freedom that this radical situation unexpectedly offered to a lot of us. I have noticed that a lot of anxious or depressed people around me admitted that the lockdown actually brought about in them a deep sense of belonging in the world. For the very first time in their lives, the quiet and strange tension of the outside echoed their inner world.

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