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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

Title of dissertation: Black Augustes, White Jokers: The Ambivalent Political Performances of Clown Figures from the 1970’s to Contemporary Times.



This research analyses political performances of clown figures in different Western contexts and media from the 1970’s to now. It focuses on four main clown figures: the Black Auguste in the circus, the clown activist in public spaces, the Joker in popular culture and the populist clown in new media. The research aims thereby to critically examine the discourses that have constructed clown history as a cultural continuum and the clown as a universal figure of transgression. The study rather argues that the clown emerges as a political signifier, that performs through the semiotics of laughter and failure an ambivalent attitude to power, specific to the given socio-cultural context and medium. The research thus analyses how the clown offers corporal performances of the ‘laughable’, that can both embody a satire of power and perpetuate its oppressive performativity, either by breaking down social stereotypes or maintaining them through oppressive humour. Taking the clown as a signifier of political instability and a cynical attitude in Western representative democracies, the research aims to further explore the role of cultural figures in the construction of political theory. It argues that the clown, through its performative and discursive body, embodies both the exhaustion of collective ideologies and traditional political narratives, as well as the possibility to rethink revolt through a politics of vulnerability.



Ariane Gros (she/her) is a freelance dramaturge and PhD candidate based between Amsterdam and Cologne. She studied in the “Classes Préparatoires” 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 in co-tutela with the University of Amsterdam. Besides her academic education, Ariane Gros has 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