zum Inhalt springen

Dissertationproject of Ariane Gros

Source: A clown holds a placard depicting U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May as a clown during a demonstration against politicians near the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomberg

The proposed research explores the use of clown figures in political discourses in the 20th century and contemporary times. The research focuses on four main clown figures situated in different contexts and medialities : the August clown in circuses, the dark clown in popular culture, the clown meme on social media and the clown activist in public spaces. By studying the cultural legacies, influences and intertextuality of these representations, the research contests the notion of a cultural continuum in clown history that would assume the clown as a singular figure persisting through different contexts. It argues instead that the clown emerges as an ambivalent and malleable archetype that intersects different media and performs a context-dependent significance. The research aims thereby to investigate the political significance and identity of the clown figure in relation to its sociocultural context, studying how laughter and cynicism can both enable the critique of power and enhance its performativity. This study highlights here the equivocal role of clown figures in satirizing power and perpetuating oppressive stereotypes, signifying both transgressive disobedience and power illegitimacy.


Taking the clown as a collective symbol of political unreliability and cynicism, this research aims to further explore the role of cultural figures in the construction of a political discourse in modern representative democracies. It argues that in this context, the clown is as much performing the exhaustion of collective ideologies and traditional political narratives as the possibility to rethink revolt and subversion through the politics of truthfulness and vulnerability. Thus investigating the artistic renewal of clowning in activism and street art, this research also explores how the contemporary form of clowning also comes back to the Foucaldian concept of cynicism in its sense of resistance and ungovernability.


Short biography

Ariane Gros (she/her) is a freelance dramaturge and PhD candidate based between Amsterdam and Cologne. She studied in the “Classes Preparatoires” in France and obtained a joint degree in theatre studies and philosophy at the University Paris Sorbonne in 2018. She recently graduated from a dual Master in International Dramaturgy at the University of Amsterdam and is currently writing her PhD dissertation at the University of Cologne. Besides her academic education, Ariane Gros has a background in corporal theatre, mime, acting and play writing. She worked as a dramaturge on several projects in Paris, Rotterdam, Manchester and Turnhout, notably on the mailing box project How To Start a Movement and the immersive website While Waiting, Wait Here. Her work can be defined in new ways of conceiving dramaturgy outside of the theatre scene and in a combination of artistic practice with more engaged social and political action. Her research interests are mostly situated in the intertwinement between popular culture, activism, media and politics. Ariane Gros received in April 2022 the artes scholarship for her doctoral project on the cultural figure of the clown and its political significance in arts and media.


Contact  arayan.grosSpamProtectionhotmail.fr