Being a Clown and The Expressive Arts
79 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Being a Clown and The Expressive Arts


79 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage


The clown's artistry offers key insights into how practitioners in guidance & support can unlock their own capacity for the mental and physical flexibility needed in their work with clients. The clown is a master of improvisation and humour. Being a clown is a breath of fresh air, a pause for thought; it invites us to converse with complexity. Giving and receiving with respect and sensitivity is the essence of this key player in our human repertoire. All roads are open with the clown.



Publié par
Date de parution 13 juillet 2018
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9782336847047
Langue Français
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Collection Arts : thérapie

Collection Arts : thérapie Dirigée par Henri Saigre

La collection veut contribuer au large débat qui traverse les différentes orientations de l’art-thérapie et de l’art transformationnel. Elle s’intéresse, sans dogmatisme, à leur histoire ainsi qu’à l’expression des fondamentaux de leurs différentes écoles de pensée, à l’écoute des pratiques singulières, à la relation des colloques et des congrès où se brassent les idées, à leur dimension sociopolitique. Elle souhaite également, en publiant des monographies, continuer à questionner les rapports entre l’art et la folie.
Déjà parus
Jimi B. Vialaret, L’art-thérapie. D’un lien art et médecine. Volume VI : Musica Mundia, 2. 2 e partie : langage et divination, animaux et curiosités musicothérapeutiques , 2018.
Christine Lopez et Michel Arnaud, Art-thérapie et autisme. Du geste à la parole. Récits d’atelier et réflexions cliniques , 2016.
Henri Saigre, Les éphémères , 2014. Roseline Hurion, Divagations , 2014.
Renate Perrion-Klee et Didier Antoine, Musique pour tous ! Quand le handicap n’est plus un obstacle , 2014. Henri Faivre, Survivre. Mythes et transgressions en art-thérapie , 2013.
Nicole Derda et Yves Lefebvre (ouvrage collectif), Art-thérapeute en écriture , 2013.
Bela Mitricova-Middelbos, Schizophrénie et création artistique , 2013.
Isabelle Schenkel, Le Clown thérapeute , 2013.

Isabelle S CHENKEL

Being a Clown and The Expressive Arts

Preface by Stephen K. Levine

© L’Harmattan, 2018 5-7, rue de l’Ecole-Polytechnique, 75005 Paris
EAN Epub : 978-2-336-84704-7
Enfin, de son vil échafaud,
Le clown sauta si haut, si haut,
Qu’il creva le plafond de toile
Au son du cor et du tambour,
Et, le cœur dévoré d’amour,
Alla rouler dans les étoiles.
Odes funambulesques
Finally, the clown jumped so high, so high
From his worthless scaffold,
That he pierced through the canvas roof,
To the sound of the horn and the drum,
And, with his heart devoured by love,
Rose to mingle with the stars.
Funambulesque Odes
Table of contens
Collection Arts : thérapie
Introduction by Stephen K. Levine
1. The Art of the Clown
2. The Fundamental Aspects of the Approach to Clowning
3. A Corporeal and Sensitive Presence
4. The Intention of Clown
5. Irreverence and Freedom
6. Putting into Practice
7. Improvisation
8. The Other, a Partner in Play
9. The Art of the Clown for the Practice of Support in the Expressive Arts
10. From the Role of the Change Agent to the Character of the Player
11. Support the Imagination with a View to Unfolding a Metaphorical Reality
12. Make It or Let It Unfold
13. Meeting, Presence, Relevancy
14. From the role of the change agent to the character of the player
To Work
An invitation to play became a fascinating adventure and a definite part of my life. I am grateful to Stephen and Ellen Levine for having helped me discover the art of being a clown, and, to my great surprise, I loved it. I thank them for their support and the constant renewal of their confidence in me. I thank Jacques Stitelmann for offering me a stimulating framework within which to work and who welcomed me as a clown with open arms into his training Institute.
I thank Jean-Bernard Bonange for his valuable teaching about clowning. I thank Pierre Byland and Serge Martin for their perceptive, immense knowledge of the nature of clowning. Thanks also to the artists who revealed to me with impressive sincerity the fragility of their daily lives and experiences. I thank Eric Boekholt for having opened the doors of the Auguste Association and introduced me to so many magnificent clowns.
Thanks also to my co-clowns of Octoclowns, all being such exceptional partners in clowning. I thank Florence Godoy for her illustrations.
Finally, my thanks to Irene Gernsheim and Evelyn Gustafson for their assiduous proofreading and editing, and also to my darling husband for his infinite patience and to all my friends and family for their repeated support.
Isabelle Schenkel is my daughter – that is, she is my clown daughter. I will explain. Each summer at the end of the courses in expressive arts at The European Graduate School in Switzerland, Ellen Levine and I offer a clown show to the graduating students. The show is meant as a celebration of the completion of their studies, but it also gives us an opportunity to make fun of the school and of ourselves. We have been doing this for almost twenty years, sometimes two different shows, one for each summer session. The performances include student volunteers, and we usually involve them in the play, even those who have never done anything like this before.
The shows have a basic structure that gives us a frame within which to improvise. I play Max, an old Jewish man with a bent-over body and a Yiddish accent. Ellen is Sadie, his wife, who is full of energy and bigger than life. They love each other but are also often in conflict, particularly over Max’s tendency to flirt with the beautiful students in the audience. When Sadie catches Max doing this, she hits him with her pocket-book, something that hurts not only the character but the actor as well! But somehow, they remember that in spite of everything, they do love each other very much and end by embracing fervently.
The show sometimes begins with Max and Sadie coming to this unusual school located high up in the alps to meet their grand-daughter who they haven’t seen in years. Who will play the grand-daughter? Isabelle was a student in our courses, and we recognized at once that she completely fit the bill: beautiful, playful and open to improvisation in her thinking as well as in play. And so, our little family was born. We played together for several years when Isabelle was a student, and then even after she graduated, we would often invite her back to participate.
After all, she was our only daughter and we were always so happy to see her again, even when it turned out that she had chosen a completely inappropriate person (sometimes male, sometimes female, but always ridiculous) to be her future mate.
Of course, Isabelle was not only our daughter; she was also one of the brightest students in our classes. With her background as a dancer as well as a therapist and coach, she took to the training in expressive arts work like, as they say, a duck to water. And she swam in it.
Her dissertation on clown as an artistic practice analogous to other modes of being a change agent revealed the principles and practice of therapy and coaching from a totally new perspective. This book is the distillation of many years of training and experience, both on stage and in the consulting room. In addition, the sensitivity and intelligence of her thinking shine through each page.
But what does clown have to do with being a change agent in her role of helping another with their life and work? Is this not a serious business in contradistinction to the foolishness of the clown? The therapist, for example, is not there to fool around. She often faces wounds and other obstacles that have tormented their clients and thrown them into chaos, both internal and external. What has this to do with the world of the clown? And yet Isabelle was able to see that many of the qualities of the clown – her ability to be present, to play with whatever appears and inhabit an imaginary world with another, the innocence and love which she greets the audience and her clown partner, the way she gives up her agenda and follows the play wherever it goes – all these as well as others described in the book, are also at the basis of effective guidance and support for a person in distress.
Above all, the clown shows us that our wish to know what we are doing and to control the outcome is a total illusion. Knowledge and control are indeed the characteristics which have enabled the human species to survive in the most dangerous and inhabitable milieux. Yet in spite of all this, we often end up in a mess. For example, our technological knowledge has given us immense power, yet the result is now environmental catastrophe which may even lead to our extinction. It seems whenever we confront a situation and try to master it, rather than letting go into an encounter with the other which may surprise and transform us, we end up in disaster. This is something a clown knows very well; after all, the typical experience of the clown is that she tries to pursue an objective and then, Voila – she flops! But not only does she fail at her task, she also often fails at being a clown, at doing something funny and amusing the audience. This is the moment referred to as “dying on stage.” Shame invades the clown-player, leading to a wish to escape, to try something else, anything that might work to get herself out of that awful condition. And of course, the more she tries to escape, the worse it gets.
One of my clown teachers, Philippe Gaulier, used to say, “Don’t try to be ridiculous – you already are!” There is nothing worse for an audience than watching a clown trying in vain not to be failing at being a clown – unless she can embrace this in clown! Philippe used to call this “drinking the cup of tea.” If the clown can drink the tea of the flop, he’d go on to say, “At that moment an angel passes over and a clown is born.”
The natural human tendency is to run away from our flops, but in doing so, are we not losing the essential vulnerability that makes us human? Not only the client, but also the therapist must give up their wish for knowledge and control and accept the reality that they do not know what is happening and cannot control the outcome. If the therapist can accept her helplessness, then maybe the angel will pass over and give her the gift of unconditional love. For love is gentle, love is kind – and we must let go for it to come to us and for us to accept it.
This book shows us, better than any other I have read, that not only is clown an act of love, but so are all our attempts to help other in difficulty. And the book itself is written in the same spirit.
Reader, my hope is that you can let go and receive its gift of love.
Stephen K. Levine
An invitation to play, first an adventure and an opportunity to learn the art of the clown, then making it my dissertation, now a book. Readers are asked to find out – with me – about this fascinating world of the clown. The clown is an empathetic, curious being, wilfully provocative and excessive, literal and poetic, larger than life and messy. The list of his characteristics is long. This is only a glimpse. His marginal position in the theatre and in society – let’s not forget that he is part of that heritage of fools and other buffoons – offers him the freedom to look and speak that is unique to our Western tradition. He is an artistic and social phenomenon at the same time.
A clown does not worry about losing face. His situation allows us to understand the strictness of our social roles, to distance ourselves from them and to laugh at them. This attitude seems to me to be particularly well suited for a thoughtful reflection in working as a change agent. It seems to me, following in the steps of the Jungian psychologist James Hillman 1 , that we must consider the office equally as a place where we can think critically about our society and its demands for conformity.
And isn’t one of the essential functions of art to offer an alternative, sometimes provocative look at our own world? Having said that, doing research is a serious business! It is methodical, methodological, logical! However, in order to write my dissertation, I plunged myself into a wild challenge: allow the clown in me to come alive. To take an interest in this awkward and eccentric being in such a formal structure is something of a wager. A liberation for me to give expression to this capricious, unpredictable, whimsical, derisory, superficial, entertaining servant, who follows each one of us like a shadow and who constantly whispers to us: “THIS IS NOT SERIOUS.” 2
This companion allows us to laugh at oneself and one’s fanciful ideas. Perhaps the clown within us, since people speak today about the discovery of the clown in us 3 , is this part of ourselves which envisages society in a manner illogical and excessive, but also astonishingly clearly and lucidly. It inhabits a corner in our being which lives its life without purpose, without seeking justification, without expressing any particular idea. To give life to the clown within us, or to be a clown, amounts to freeing ourselves to a certain extent from the seriousness which imprisons us. This fool, a wise “advisor who establishes for us the necessary distance from things and events, releases our attention from all-encompassing problems whereas they were never anything but minor.” 4
Firstly, my study intends to improve our understanding of the being a clown , as described by Dr. Catherine Dolto 5 ; this state of being which inhabits a person when he assumes the mantle of a clown, his manner of living in the world and the way in which he regards others. A process achieved through a phenomenological research of the clown as a theatrical character. Two areas of research are used: the work of a clown within the framework of training for the theatre and the intervention of clowns in an institutional context.
Secondly, the study of the character of the clown seeks to enrich the position of the change agent of expressive arts whatever the field of professional expertise in which that person operates – health, social issues, education. The state of being a clown is like playing, a kind of coming together, open to surprises. Research has elucidated a certain understanding of the skills that promote this state and so allows the change agent to take inspiration from these. An attitude analogue to the art… of clown.
Once the goals and expectations have been defined in this supportive role, the ensuing moment of creativeness offers the opportunity to play. In order to support the unfolding of this playground, the change agent and the client are invited to become players able to call upon aspects of the clown’s character. In this way, people are prepared and curious about what is to come and about what will develop. Being a player, taking inspiration from the art of clowning, gives space, freedom, movement and so supports the process of a personal transformation.

1 HILLMAN, 1992
2 MARTIN, 2003 (1985), p.15
3 The term is used in the training programme of Bataclown
4 MARTIN, 2003 (1985), p.16
5 DOLTO, 2003, p.5
1. The Art of the Clown
The renewal of circus arts: The New Clown
For most of us, the simple mention of the word clown evokes images of a red nose, too big shoes and blundering about. There has been a distinct evolution of the clown over the last forty years in France, then across Europe and the United States, which has led to what is now called the new clown. He is completely different from the traditional circus clown. His character is based on being laid bare (mise à nu) and patent weakness.
The new clown, brought to the light of day by actors working together, has pushed to one side any references to the traditional circus. Having moved away from tradition, he has made himself part of a process leading to the emergence of the new circus. The first signs of the transformation took place in France in the 1960s, foreseeing and accompanying the 1968 uprising. Until that time, circus acts and tricks were transmitted only between family members. The only thing that counted was the apprenticeship of technical virtuosity. This instruction begun at an early age so that the artist could perform in the circus ring as soon as he was able. In the circus world great importance is put on the amount of money all artists can earn. The circus has to ensure its survival by its own means.
In France, awarding official status to the circus marks an important step in its history. In 1979 the circus, which was previously associated with the Ministry of Agriculture because of the presence of animals, was transferred to the Ministry of Culture. In 1987 Jack Lang, Minister of Culture, authorized the creation of the National Centre for Circus Arts (CNAC) in Châlons-en-Champagne. Pierre Byland, then a professor of clown arts at the Jacques Lecoq school, was invited to take on the management. He was given, together with a colleague, the mandate to establish nothing less than the renewal of circus arts. The first move was to scour the whole of Europe for existing circuses and circus schools. Circus schools were virtually nonexistent, except for those in Budapest, Hungary and Moscow, Russia.
The passing on of knowledge and skill in the circus world is carried out solely through a family context. Professional secrecy is obligatory. The few schools found concentrated solely on technique. After the long search by Byland and his colleague, one thing was clear: “The circus needed a good, old-fashioned dusting off” 6 .
To achieve this, the CNAC had a theatre core curriculum of 12 hours a week. This was in the hope of promoting a quality of performance than just mere technique. All students, to whatever discipline they aspired, had to conform as well as to the other artistic disciplines in dance, music and visual arts. The idea was to awaken creativity and improve their presence on stage.
The CNAC had to combat a number of diktats coming from the traditional circus world as to what a clown was or was not. Amongst these: “To be a clown, you must be old”. Tradition required that when an artist is no longer able to perform hundreds of technical pirouettes he must become a clown. Or again: “Clowns are kind”.
The new artist clowns upend these references by questioning a clown’s relationship with black humour or eroticism. The clowns are laid bare and go as far as to use skin as a costume: naked with a red bow tie! In spite of the outcry from the circus world, the new generation won. The new circus was born.
For Jean Vinet, the director of studies at Châlons, France,
the evolution of the circus is comparable to that of dance, which led to distinguishing between classical dance and contemporary dance. The traditional circus favours technical prowess, and purity of execution, whereas the new circus seeks to develop the personal expression of the artist, to give a meaning to the show that surpasses the entry” 7 .
These do not follow each other like series of tableaux which focus is performance but are integrated into the scenography as a whole.
The clown shares with the circus a history of more than two centuries. At the beginning of the 19th century, he appears as an emblematic figure. In the microcosm of the circus, he takes the marginal place that the circus holds in the artistic world: seeking status and recognition. The circus has always been a place which juxtaposes the arts.
Lecoq: searching for the clown in oneself
The formula was developed in the 1970s by Jacques Lecoq, a famous French pedagogue who founded the International Theatre School in Paris in 1956. In his words: “the search for the clown in oneself is first and foremost a search for what is derisory about oneself” 8 . Lecoq integrated clowning into the training of actors, because, in his opinion, the search for the clown within oneself offers the actor “a great sense of freedom when he confronts himself” 9 . The art of clowning is taught at the end of the course. He breaks with the circus and becomes a part of the actor’s training in the craft of acting. The only element remaining of the circus is the comic dimension.
An actor portrays various roles in the theatre. Compared to the commedia dell’arte and the theatre in general, the actor does not have to learn a part in order to be a clown. At this point, it is a case of laying oneself bare. Clowning takes its form through acting out the truth, to teach how to be on the stage with the greatest sincerity and spontaneity. The accent is no longer on technical virtuosity or assuming a specific role, as is in a traditional theatre.
With clowning, I ask the actors to be themselves as much as possible and to observe the effect they have on the surroundings, their public. They experience freedom and authenticity when facing the public 10 .
Clowning is a type of expression based on the inner self and by meeting others:
You do not act as a clown, you simply are one. 11
It is an encounter between inner life and the world outside which is shown by the performance of the clown.
Complicity is an essential notion of Lecoq’s work . It is the way in which the clown interacts with his public and other clowns. His performance has its source in a sensibility which causes him to react spontaneously to anything that comes to him from the public and from his partners. The clown is there to play and to be played with. He excludes nothing, he excludes nobody, but he can still pretend to do so.
When physical movements are trained,
it is never, for a clown, a question of set external composition, but always a development inspired by personal impulses. 12
One of the major themes of Lecoq’s work is play. Some of his former students who have pursued this area of clowning are notably Serge Martin, Ariane Mnouchkine, Philippe Gaulier, Alberto, John Wright and others.

Bataclown: The discovery of the clown in oneself
The Bataclown company was founded in 1980 by Anne-Marie Bernard, Jean-Bernard Bonange and Bertil Sylvander. Its founding principle was to operate a synthesis between the theatrical training Searching for the clown in oneself, launched by Jacques Lecoq, and the contemporary current of personal development, a synthesis designated specifically as The discovery of the clown in oneself. They defend the idea that “everyone has within himself a clown waiting to be discovered” and their positioning consists in considering the personal development of the actor as essential to his self-expression. However, it must be kept in mind that
a clown is not used for expressing literally the moods of the individual (he would then be being manipulated): his self-expression finds nourishment from within, but by way of theatrical transposition, of symbolism and of the sudden appearance of the unexpected in order to exist. 13
The first objective is theatrical expression and not personal development. The basis of their teaching is to give priority to the personal expression by the actor.
The clown is discovered within the person. He is already present in us. The task of the actor is to reveal this trait. The group leader is there to help discover the clown within. He is viewed as the midwife overseeing the birth of an actor’s expression and not as a producer directing. He accompanies the actor who, in turn, gives life to the clown. This is the clown, as he is described in the first article of the company’s charter:
The clown is a fictional character. He is emotional, capable of possessing the whole range of emotions and their various nuances. He is out off-beat, ingenuous, in contact with the real world, yet slides into the imaginary one, maintaining a special type of drama. He is always involved with his public and empathetic. He is sometimes cruel but never nasty. He is subversive (not by choice, but by nature) but not judging others nor the world. He is as rich and unique in his self-expression as anybody. This wealth is noted in the various situations that he is able to create and does not stop at the desire to make others fall into a trap. While weaving intrigues the clown sees himself as a living character, demonstrates it to us, without being self-indulgent, without being taken in by what he represents. The clown exists as he sees his life and symbolic death whenever he is on stage. His short existence in our presence is existential proof for him. At such times, he teaches us something essential about himself, about ourselves, and the world. These generic features of the character constitute a general thread with which each actor-clown weaves his uniquenes.
This generic clown corresponds to the idea we have of a clown. The image is linked to the history and culture in which we live.
The variety of locations and types of intervention of the contemporary clown
In her book Serious Play (2009), Louise Peacock offers excellent points of orientation in order to describe the landscape of the contemporary clown, his different locations, practices and habits. She is interested in both the nature of farcical shows and their function in contemporary society. Her research is centred on the practice of clowning in Europe and in the USA over the last half century.
Louise Peacock detects three types of clownish theatrical performances: clown shows, clown theatre, and the clown actor. The clown show is the nearest to the circus clown. These are shows in which the clown draws the public in and defines the nature of the spectacle. The examples she uses to define this type of spectacle are the Witloof, Tricicle and Paperworld of the Mimirichis.
In farcical theatre, all the artists are clowns. The performance draws its inspiration from the resources of each artist and the visual elements are often surreal or fantastical. There is a narrative element which brings it close to classical theatre. These shows make less use the clown as the main attraction. Nola Rae’s Exit Napoleon pursued by rabbits and Slava’s snowshow are exemples of this .
As for the clown actors, they interact with characters who are not clowns. They tend to have a theme they want to communicate to the audience. The text is considered more important than in the other categories. As examples, we have Grimaldi or Only fools (no horses) of Angela de Castro.
The clown is a character that delights in being at the core of things, where the action is. He was not born to the stage and therefore is not dependent on it. He can appear anywhere. Preferably where he is not expected. The clown moves through the people, “he is not always there with the explicit aim of meeting the public and his moments of life are not necessarily a show or a performance” 14 . He appears then rapidly disappears like a shooting star: “the character comes from elsewhere and then goes back there” 15 . His presence is a mystery. He is a mystery among us. His nature propels him to the centre rather than to the front and separate, as with the stage of classical Italian theatre. He is at ease in the circus and wherever else he appears.
To these three types of theatrical presentation, Louise Peacock adds quite naturally two additional fields of activity: the clown as a truth-teller and the carer clowns. These are special fields that show clowns working outside circuses or theatrical venues.
She places the truth-teller clown in the tradition of the divine fool and the court jester. The clown becomes part of the world of politics and religion. She explores this type across certain Christian movements (S ketch up 16 ) and in politics by the CIRCA ( The Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army 17 ). This alternative organisation of protest came into existence in England in 1993. They intervene, always in a group, whenever there are street demonstrations. Their aim is to disrupt political events ( Make poverty history march or the G8 summit ) by non-violent civil disobedience. Their activities are almost always linked with parody or subversion. Other groups have found inspiration from their actions, like the B.A.C. ( Brigade Activiste des Clowns ), founded in Paris in 2005.
The clownanalysts of the Bataclown in France have also made themselves a part of the truth-teller tradition of clown by calling themselves the new court jesters . As of 1980 they have been setting aside a certain period of time for theatricals in their meetings of all types (business seminars, congresses, colloquia, conventions, etc). This practice consists in giving the clown’s point of view “for a laugh and for real” on what is happening and what is being said in these assemblies.
Clownanalysis has a threefold mission: playful, thought provoking, prospective. It is understood by prospective:
symbolic situations which encourage everyone together to imagine what tomorrow will bring. 18
The practice of clowning becomes social intervention. In France, Jean Kergist is a figurehead for political satire with his Théâtre national populaire. It is a resilient, travelling theatre born in 1975. At that time, Jean Kergist gave a helping hand to the first opponents of the fast-breeder reactor of Creys-Malville. He ridiculed the words of the then Minister for Industry, precipitating much laughter among the public. From that episode the name Atomic Clown was born. Since then, he has met with many other groups: social workers, health workers, agricultural workers, unemployment associations, the militants for human rights, the Tibetan refugees from Ladakh, etc.
In the field of carer clowns, Louise Peacock names a large number of organisations of clowns working in hospitals as well as Clowns without Borders. Hospital clowns have become more prevalent since the 1980s. The first organisation was created by Patch Adams in 1983, the Gesundheit Institute. Some of the most well known are the Big Apple Clown Care (USA, 1986), Le Rire médecin (France 1991), Cliniclowns (Belgium, 1991), Theodora (Great Britain, 1993), The Humour Foundation ( Australia, 1993), Hôpiclowns (Switzerland, 1996), Fools for Health (Canada, 2001), Clown Doctors (Great Britain, 2006).
In spite of the wide vision of Patch Adams who dreamt that clowns should also visit adults 19 , hospital clowns deal almost exclusively with hospitalized children. They operate in pairs and are present in the hospital environment generally as professional artists. Their objective is to offer some sort of freedom at the very heart of the hospital offering the child new frames for reference by stimulating its creativity and imagination. Clowns bring with them play and a world of fantasy. They bring to the fore the show of emotions and the parody of the powers. In this way, they add colour, fantasy, laughter, play and imagination to the child, but also to his parents and to all the hospital staff. The clowns facilitate the development of relationships and meetings between all those in their presence.
This is a testimony of an artist who worked for three years with Le Rire Médecin:
One thing that is very significant (concerning the clown in a hospital context) is the mediating role that it may provide between the patient and the family, which may experience so much pain to see their child in hospital that it becomes difficult to convey anything other than their pain to him. If you put a clown in this exchange, a triangle is formed in which everything may be passed through the intermediary of the clown. This creates a relaxed atmosphere and the parents can then draw the strength to make themselves more light-hearted with their children. It allows them to laugh and it pleases the children. The children enjoy seeing their parents laugh. It is very powerful in fact, very, very powerful. 20
The aim of Clowns Without Borders is to get street children or those in a region hit by natural disasters or wars to play again. To achieve this, they organize workshops and performances. The first of these organisations ( Payasos sin fronteras ) started in Barcelona, Spain in 1993. Clowns without Borders also exist in France, in Canada and in Belgium.
The increasing number of interventions in different areas is much less due to the present-day clown seeking to define his identity and much more due to one of his essential characteristics, namely using the actions of others as the basis for his own. What he was doing in the circus or in Shakespearian theatre, he continues to do in new places he explores. He stresses a different event in order to reveal his presence, thus going through a situation which existed before him and will continue to exist after him.
The presence of the other is essential for the clown. Louise Peacock, in her definition of the art of clowning, raises the point that this other is present in the shape of the public or an actor-partner. It is also found in the appearance of the clown who stands out as different from daily reality, or in his particular way of approaching life. As far as the clown is concerned, he cannot exist without the other.
There are clear differences of scale between performing in the theatre and intervening in the areas of health and society. These distinctions may be thought of in terms of poles of attraction, of intention and of setting. Eric Mathyer, a pioneer among hospital clowns in Switzerland who has worked with the Theodora Foundation, makes a significant point regarding the play on stage and in care:
In the circus, it is the artist who decides what he is going to show, whereas in the hospital, the artist is at the service of the mood and fantasy of the patient who has not chosen to be there. 21
The Auguste Association, the clown in institutions
Founded in Geneva, Switzerland in 1999, the Auguste Association trains care staff, social and hospital workers who would like to offer their residents to enjoy care free moments in the company of a clown. This association has been directly inspired by the interpersonal clowning as developed in Belgium by Christian and Françoise Moffart in their book Clown relationnel et clown thérapie.
What is special about the Auguste Association is that it trains nursing staff. The majority of clown associations in hospitals function in the opposite way. They take responsibility to train artist-clowns in the tasks and demands specific in care environments. The basic training consists of a 2 weeks in residence course and 10 visits to care homes. The artistic training course centers on the basic elements of clowning. It lays weight on playing together, the relationship with one another in a safe environment. This training does not aim at performances in public.
The relational clown has the following characteristics:
• He does not put on a show.
• He goes to meet those for whom age or a disability compromise their ability to communicate or converse.
• He positions himself in a relational and therapeutic perspective which is based on principles taken from the Gestalt therapy, namely “to respect the rhythm of the other; to accept to begin a relationship; to accept the refusal of the person not wishing to enter a relationship; to adjust oneself to the rhythm of the other and to know when to withdraw once the interest diminishes” 22 .
From these interviews, it became clear that two functions of clowning in institutes were central: communication and play. The mode of communication favoured by the clown is particular. It is significant in emotional content and often based on a visual level. The relationships generated by the clowns are a dialogue between equals, ignoring age, social status or position. The clowns develop this kind of communication with the residents which has a domino effect on the environment. Clowning humanise the institutional system.
Clowns are always in pairs, developing a special relationship with the staff-clowns. By breaking through the patient-nurse hierarchy, they allow the residents to express themselves which helps to calm down certain situations created with the nursing staff. Finally, the positive presence of clowns encourages exchanges of points of view and can ensure good humour among the residents and their families.

Diagram: the clown promotes communication between the different groups.
The clowns bring play-time with them which is expressed on different levels. The nurse who is clowning gains in self-confidence and dares to play more. Being a clown, she is able to take liberties with respect to the institution, now perceived as a playground. In this way, she gains distance from a form of power.

Diagram: the nurse’s role in relation to the institution.
6 BYLAND, interview
7 Quoted by Monique Perrot-Lanaud, in Arts et spectacle n°30, janvier 1998, p.165
8 LECOQ, 1997, p.154
9 LECOQ, 1997, p.22
10 LECOQ, 1997, p.157
11 LECOQ, 1997, p.154
12 LECOQ, 1997, p.156
13 Charte du Bataclown, 30 mai 2008, art.2
14 Bataclown Charter, art.2
15 Bataclown Charter, art.2
18 , accès le 14.08.2009
19 ADAMS, 2002
20 FEDELE, interview
21 MATHYER, 2006
22 Liliane GAIO (2005) a training paper about running activities for elderly people, in
2. The Fundamental Aspects of the Approach to Clowning
“ I am nothing. I will never be nothing. I cannot desire to be nothing. That said, I bear in me all the world’s dreams. Fernando Pessoa
What is a clown and what isn’t a clown? Is he an individual, a character, a part to play, a spirit, a state of being? What is his place in the world of theatre? Is he wearing a red nose to truly make him appear as a clown? These are the questions we shall attempt to answer in this chapter.
The clown is action. He gets tangled up in his projects and wrestles with the objects that surround him. He is capable of drowning in a glass of water and the very next moment of drinking it because all his efforts have made him quite thirsty.
His ups and downs often reveal an unexpected essential characteristic that turns up at a detour in his path. A little something or other that is so profoundly human and which comes to light when everything falls apart.
The clown is an odd character, triggering a release of humaneness. One evening Pierre Byland confessed that a clown for him was a pretext to reveal Man’s nature: “I find it interesting because he doesn’t pretend. Even in the midst of his loneliness, he wants you to accept him and love him”.
The origin of the word clown is quite vague. It could refer to several English meanings: a clod of earth, a clot of blood. These roots remind us that the clown is a fairly basic kind of person, with no social position. He represents humankind in general, not seeking to cause too much fuss or upset the social order.
With the clowns, we are ourselves. These are characters setting themselves on a horizontal plane. With them, we are not on the tragic vertical plane of heroes or buffoons. Among all those cousins of the human comedy, he is the one closest to the public, an equal. He is the living illustration of that part of the human spirit untouched by setbacks and never ceasing to believe in itself.
Pierre Byland gives the following example. The clown is told: “walk straight into that wall!” He goes forward and bumps into it. He comes back and says: “I couldn’t go any further”. He then receives the same order and repeats the action. The clown walks straight into the wall, bumps into it, and comes back. Repeteadly. He still believes that on some occasion he will be able to walk through the wall or that something will happen. His repeated attempts do not leave any scars and he will go on believing he can do it. That too makes him profoundly human.
Since the character of the clown finds its roots in the very depths of the humaneness, it takes its sustenance directly from the source of the individual. “The clown is formidable because somehow he is even more me than me”. It is with these words that Ruth Frauenfelder, an artist and puppeteer, describes the challenge that the clown represents to her with respect to masks and puppets. Wearing a mask implies becoming someone else and playing a role, whereas the clown demands “a confrontation between to live and let be”.
A fictional character
The contemporary clown a part of physical theatre. The artist-clown is trained more often than not at schools for actors. In French, we use the word acteur to describe a performer, as is the case of the English word actor. While respecting the current use of the term, I have nevertheless chosen the term artist when it is important to differentiate between what is strictly the work of an actor from that of an artist-clown.
According to the term used by Bataclown, the inner clown or singular clown is specific to each of us. It emerges through the exercise of acting. Although totally a part of the individual, the singular clown remains a fictional character in his own world and reality, both off-beat.
First, we have the individual. To speak about the person is to refer to daily reality. We have somebody who is unique, special, with his own history, his personality and his fantasy. As soon as he begins to play, he takes on the role of an actor. It is important to differentiate between the actor and the person (see Fig.1). This is especially useful in distinguishing the work carried out first and foremost by the actor, not by the individual.
An activity that concentrates on the individual is a means of personal development. An activity that concentrates on the actor is a pursuit of theatrical expression. We can find this distinction in Article 5 of the Bataclown charter: “… the meticulous work with the actor is not to be confused with its effect on the individual who gives life to the clown. Personal development comes as an extra, precisely because it is not a primary objective”.
Louise Peacock differentiates the artist-clown from the actor by his reaction to his surroundings.
In his or her performance, the view of and reaction to the world is the same for the creation (the clown persona) as for the performer. 23
This being in tune with the personal experience of the artist and the character of the clown compels us to treat the latter differently in respect to an interpretative role. Louise Peacock shows that the artist-clown exists on three levels – very much in contrast to the classic actor-role duality. These three are:
• the artist or actor (performer ),
• the character ( persona) who represents the inner clown of the artist
• the role ( personage ) played by the artist in his clown personage.
In his profession, the actor generally turns himself into the incarnation of a role created by someone such as a writer or a director. To be a clown, the actor has the responsibility of being himself sufficiently open so as to present himself the best vessel possible for portraying a character composed solely of himself.
The actor allows himself to be inspired, surprised and, when he displays his surprise to us, the clown is born. Then he learns how to walk. 24
In order to give life to the clown, the person strips off his outer layer and tries to achieve the greatest authenticity with whatever comes to his mind at that moment. This is the clown at his most basic form, at the lowest rung of acting. From this stem those aspects called forth in the search for or discovery of his inner clown.
For the clown, the person displays his vibrant, excessive, playful characteristics. When an improvisation hits the right note, the actor has conceded his place to the clown. From that moment on, he obeys and places himself at the clown’s service. When an improvisation unravels, this is necessarily the fault of the actor.
Yes, we claim the right to let the clown emerge from the person who creates him but at a just distance from him, in which the space for play may ease itself in. 25
This with the required interval so as to breathe life into the clown and that the magic may begin.
The actor’s work demands a great commitment on the part of the person. This amounts to a physical effort of the person’s body and is its primary instrument. With the clown, one must add the individual’s own substance, thoughts, emotions and images to act as a catalyst. The actor brings who he is: his strengths, his weaknesses, his potential for action. The clown does not allow for any subterfuge in this matter. On the contrary, that is what the actor must accept when he plays the clown.

Fig. 1
This baring of one’s soul generates a huge upheaval, hence the necessity to differentiate between the clown and the person. This separation is as real as that which separates the sacred from the profane, life from fiction. It preserves the clown as much as it preserves the person. This dividing line is achieved through the observation of a certain ritual and by a warming-up process which lets the person quit his daily life and make himself available for clowning.
In the case of the Auguste clowns, this transformation takes about 45 minutes. The preparation includes putting on costumes, putting on make-up and forming a talking circle which permits everyone to have the opportunity to share and to bind with the team. Once they have performed, they rarely return to their activities in the institutes. In most cases, they will have no further contact with the residents and go home. This break is necessary for all involved. The spirit of clown remains longer.
At the Bataclown, all take part in the same training group. Warm-up is essential. It prepares the actor for playing, for improvisation and for allowing the clown to appear. Comfortable clothing is necessary for the warm-up. The transition to clowning is distinguished mostly by short improvisations done solely with the nose and a hat. Then the moment comes when someone improvises with a costume that permits none of the actor’s clothing to be seen.
The Nose
It is not enough to put on a nose to become a clown. If it is true “do not judge a book by its cover”, it is then true that wearing a nose does not make one a clown. This said, to what use can a nose be put in clowning?
Wearing a mask
is to change one’s body by changing one’s face. It is participating in a game greater than the daily round.

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