I am a thrower, I am a catcher, I am a handler of objects. I am a Juggler.
To juggle is to manipulate an object, to have control over it, to tame it so it does what you want. This is a juggler’s task with everything that they set out to learn…..it always starts with the premise of mastering a certain trick or sequence. One would never set out thinking “I’m going to sort of learn this” One may give up on mastering something and succumb to the dominant power of the other (sometimes it is just to difficult)
When it comes to looking at the objects a juggler may use in their practice we are conditioned to think of the “classical” props seen in popular culture, those being balls, clubs and rings. These objects have traditionally been handled in the same ways by jugglers for a very long time (and still are) but over the past few decades this has been changing and there has been a shift. For example, traditionally there is a right end and a wrong end to catch a club. But because of this shift we have seen many tricks and manipulations having been developed that use the “wrong” end to brilliant and exciting effect and had never been seen before. Which in turn opened up a whole new style of juggling/manipulation.
The essence of what has happened in juggling over the past few decades is that we as a group of artists and practitioners have started to look at our props as pure objects rather than the predetermined objects that they are sold to us as.
Other objects have been brought into performances and practice for instance Benjamin Richter has been working with stones, glasses, blocks and rope in his new show Taktil which is described as “a contemporary circus performance dealing with the language of objects” Benjamin states that he places himself “somewhere between circus, performance, art and sculpture”
Another example of a current performance is Jimmy Gonzales’ juggling act. He uses a ball of clay to create his juggling props during the performance:
In the past there has been re-purposing of everyday objects by jugglers, these mainly being the Gentleman Jugglers of the Victorian era. These jugglers would use hats, canes, cigars, cigar boxes and crockery for their tricks and routines. This traditional style is still being performed today by a handful of people.
“It’s not what you see, it’s how you see it”
We look at objects everyday and accept the way we are told to use them. If we don’t people may think us strange. Take the cup and saucer…...the cup is for the liquid, the saucer for carrying the cup. What if we used it the other way round the saucer for liquid the cup to carry the saucer?
When approaching the manipulation of an object we need to see it as a set of possibilities ,not for instance, just a cup. We need to look at what it is made up of and what these can be used of. For instance the handle of a cup is also a hole. It can be used to pick the cup up but also to place things in and through.
A way of seeing these is to think of the object in its Natural state:
- It being used for its intended purpose
- It being used in its intended way
- It being handled in its intended way
Then try to see it in its Unnatural state:
- Use it for an unintended purpose
- Use it in an unintended way
- Handle it in an unintended way
We all have things around our house that we use in their unnatural state already. Just looking around the room I am writing this in I have a book propping open a door, a mug for storing pens in, a folded piece of paper used to level out my desk and a chair with clothes drying on it!
Taking this idea of Natural State (NS) and Unnatural State (UnS) I have taken a cup and a pencil (without a rubber) as 2 objects to work with.
- To contain liquid
- To be held by the handle
- To be picked up by the handle
- To be drank from
- To be used with the hands
- To be held in one hand
- To make marks on paper/or a surface
- To be held lead end down
- To be used with the hands
Now having defined the Natural States for both objects we must ask certain questions. How can we hold the object? How can we pick up the object? What happens when we don’t use our hands? How can we put the object down? What other body parts can be used to interact with the objects? How do the 2 objects interact with each other?
The video below is the manifestation of answers to some of these questions in the form of a manipulation sequence.
Ian Marchant has been juggling for over 20 years most of this for a living. His interest is in the everyday objects that surround us and how they can be used in performance. He takes inspiration from the Gentleman Jugglers of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the creative practices’ of artists, practitioners and creatives, as well as the relationships we as humans have with the things around us. Alongside being a performer Ian is also one of the core juggling teachers on the degree at the National Centre for Circus Arts in London.