'Lyotard & Leotard', Reg Bolton - Discourse, USA. 2003

In the area of literature and theory, we are used to getting large answers to small questions. It can be intoxicating to look through a microscope at a previously un-regarded fragment, question or idea, and marvel at its significance when it is magnified, variously illuminated and prodded into life.

It is equally stimulating, but possibly more hazardous, to confront a Big Question, armed only with a few small answers, drawn from a little scholarship and framed in a few pages of words. This is what I intend to do. The Question in question is the title. "Lyotard or Leotard?" My small answer to this Big Question will consider the relationship between contemporary cultural theory, represented in the red corner by Jean-Francois Lyotard, French postmodernist philosopher (1925-1998), and circus arts, represented in the blue corner by Jules Leotard, French aerialist (1838-1870).

Both of these men were cultural pioneers. To define culture, I like the simple version : "The way we do things around here".(1) Each reflected his times, absorbed the achievements of his predecessors, and exceeded them, just enough to be celebrated in his own time. To go too far beyond one's current culture is to become a freak in your own time, an eccentric, ignored or ridiculed. Blake, Van Gogh, Joyce are known to us because their tangible books and paintings remain to be posthumously appreciated when we are ready. How many philosophers, dancers, musicians, unpublished writers and forgotten painters have languished and disappeared by being too far ahead of their time?

In the circus arts, many performers who worked not only culturally, but also technologically ahead of their times, perished. Clowns died from lead-poisoning inherent in early white-face paint.(2), early lion tamers, working 'en ferocite' sometimes forgot the principle that angry lions eat people.(3) Tightrope walkers suddenly learned that they shouldn't say, "I can do this with my eyes shut. (4) Leapers, using new springboards found that to somersault over 8 horses was easy work. Landing was the problem.(5)

The subtitle of Steve Gossard's excellent book "The Reckless Era of Aerial Performance" is "The Evolution of Trapeze". Darwinian selection cuts both ways, and as trapeze acts evolved, mutations of equipment, mischance, and incredible stupidity saw many aspirants selected suddenly, sadly, vertically downwards.

Here are the Brothers Banvard, performing at the Adelphi Music Hall in Oldham, England in 1868.

".. one portion of the entertainment consists of the taller of the men suspending himself from his toes from the shoulders of his companion, whilst the other is standing erect on the bar of a trapeze, at a height of twenty feet from the stage, and that it is his duty …. to slip as it were from this posture as if he were falling head foremost on the people beneath him. The cleverness of the feat consists in arresting his downfall by catching with his feet the horizontal bar on which the other is standing, and then to hang head downwards. On this occasion, however, the performer missed the trick and fell into the orchestra, suffering a broken arm and "mashed" fingers". (6)

However, both Leotard and Lyotard were perfect for their time, and just as Lyotard didn't perish from postmodernism, nor did Leotard experience trapeze trauma. He was born on August 1st, 1838 in Toulouse, France. His father, Jean, was a Professor of Gymnastics with his own extensive studio in the district of Haute-Garonne. Young Jules passed his exams and was destined for a career in law, but at the age of eighteen, he began to work seriously in the gymnasium, and to experiment with trapeze bars above the swimming pool.

Consider the era. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had seen the flowering of Romanticism, in which the artist, the poet or other hero is seen to celebrate unfettered humanity, to soar unencumbered by the repression of classical, civic or even moral inhibitions. Byron, Keats and Shelley personified this spirit in poetry. As happens, a cultural movement may be in decline with the intelligentsia before it is finally picked up and manifested by the masses. Thus, as manners, dress, religion and politics were entering the sombre 'Victorian' age, the public was still eager to see manifestations of the remarkable, aspiring 'romantic' human spirit. Acrobats exhibiting, by costume and posture, extreme manliness, were seen as heroic, Promethean beings, lifting the state of man closer to that of God. Even Nietzsche reflected these passions when he wrote, in 1885 in "Also Spracht Zarathustra" ,

"Man is a rope, fastened between animal and Superman - a rope over an abyss.

A dangerous going-over, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and staying-still," and " One does not kill by anger but by laughter. Come let us kill the Spirit of Gravity!" (7)

The current advances in lighting, publicity and architecture in mass entertainment, made this a time when a bold performer could catch the popular imagination and become a star. Leotard took this opportunity.

His innovation was simply that he flew. His achievement was so fundamental, so significant, and so brilliantly executed that when he first appeared at the Cirque Napolean, Paris,(8) on November 12th 1859, his co-artists held a banquet in his honour, and a commemorative medal was struck.(9) His rig consisted of three trapezes, and he swung and leaped from one to another in a variety of positions, for a twelve minute act, before alighting, with a somersault, to his carpet-covered safety platform below. The entire sequence would be considered an advanced training drill in a Circus School today, but in his time it was sensational. Jules Leotard became one of the world's first superstars. He appeared in several European capitals, and in the USA, and was the focus of great adulation. G Strehly, author of 'L'Acrobatie et les Acrobates' (1903), actually saw Leotard perform, and recalls the hysteria.

"This 'saltimbanque' was the king of fashion. It's hard to believe the welcome he received in Paris. When there is not much politics, the public's passion looks for a new object. For a while, Leotard was that object. He caused a storm everywhere. There were queues to get into the Circus; people fought for seats. In addition, advertising assured that the artist's name was in vogue, and we saw the appearance of Leotard cravats, Leotard walking sticks, Leotard brooches." (10)

In 1868 he was celebrated in song,

"He flies through the air with the greatest of ease

That daring young man on the flying trapeze.." NOTE AUTHOR, (11)

He was mentioned by Passepartout in Verne's "Around the World in Eighty Days".

"I believe I'm honest, monsieur, but to be outspoken, I've had several trades. I've been an itinerant singer, a circus-rider, when I used to vault like Leotard, and dance on a rope like Blondin."(12)

His eponymous one-piece costume, the leotard, was much imitated at the time, and much modified and worn by dancers and acrobats ever since.

He died, aged 33, in Spain, in 1870, of smallpox.

Jean-Francois Lyotard was born in 1925 in Versailles, France. Most of his life he taught philosophy, first at a High School in Algeria, then at Vincennes University (Paris VIII). He observed the development of 20th Century counter philosophies, which conspired against the comfortable but woolly mode of literary criticism which became labelled 'Liberal Humanism.' Typical of this mode, which was still being used in schools up to the 1970's, was the unquestioning acceptance of the 'Western Canon', and the use of terms like 'great', 'inspired', 'art' and 'beauty'. In the 1950's Levi-Strauss and Barthes, developing the linguistic work of Saussure, looked for, or constructed codes by which to measure texts. They encouraged critics to look for patterns, parallels, reflections in texts, to draw meaning from the text's structure. This was Structuralism.

Lyotard then saw a succession of Post-structuralists, inspired by Nietszche's "There are no facts, only interpretations." (13) Barthes, moving on, and Derrida became sceptical of any quasi-scientific method, and seemed to revel in the certainty that nothing is certain. In de-constructional criticism, the post-structuralists looked for meaning behind meaning, or meaning in spite of meaning.

As a teacher, Lyotard will have witnessed the profound changes that de-construction brought about in what was once called 'Literary Appreciation' in schools. Students, possibly for the first time, now heard of critics, and critical methods, and studied them. Inevitably, the restraints of school timetable would sometimes preclude the actual study of literature, but by now, anything was 'text', from a film to a bus-ticket.

Post-Modernism, which is actually post-post-structuralism chronologically, takes its name from Modernism. Modernism is easily defined as covering any 19th or 20th Century cultural phenomenon which sits comfortably with the word, "Modern", e.g. Modern Art, Modern Music, Modern Architecture. Like most mode words, "Modern" soon became impotent, to be replaced by "contemporary", which gave way to "innovative" which by now already means "the same as everyone else is doing".(14)

Rather in the same way that the general public's late take-up of Romanticism helped Leotard's success, so the term "Post-Modern", in its declining years, is now heard on the street, replacing "innovative", and describing anything from haircuts to mobile phone tones.

Lyotard it was that described post-modernism, as "incredulity towards meta-narratives". This is a bold move, possibly as courageous as Leotard's first leap from the trapeze bar. A meta-narrative is an over-arching value system, belief, or cultural archetype. Post-modernists enjoy de-bunking, and discovering that under a sign is just another sign. They prefer irony to explanation. With post-modernism everything is a surface, there is no depth. Baudrillard calls this 'hyperreality', and uses Disneyland as an example of how there is less to things than meets the eye.

Jean-Francois Lyotard has the courage to enter centre ring, and climb atop this teetering, Seuss-ian (15) tower of liberal humanism, structuralism, post-structuralism, supported (or destabilized) by outriggers of Marxism, Feminism, Post-Colonialism, and many others. Like any other performer, he attracts the admiration and applause of the crowd, even though some may be fans of other cultural acrobats who are now languishing in the lower strata. He will remain triumphantly aloft until, as his philosophy becomes accepted, the pyramid is identified as a meta-narrative, loses its credibility, and is promptly deconstructed. He will then become a 'differend' and vanish.

Lyotard was a professional philosopher. It was possibly on his passport, as "occupation". Throughout his life he thought, wrote and argued for a living. At his death, of Leukemia in 1998 at the age of 73, obituaries, though always referring to the controversies he had caused among philosophers, nevertheless spoke kindly of him and the paradoxes by which he lived.(16)

His was certainly, like Leotard's, a fashionable name to use around town. Letters, journals, lectures, books and the internet had spread his words to academics all over the world. Such was his reputation and respect that on his death, French radio stations observed a moment's silence.

Jules Leotard made, literally, "one giant leap for mankind" one hundred and ten years before Neil Armstrong. Once he had done it, the public demanded that he keep doing the same thing. Had he lived beyond 33 years, he may have declined and been forgotten. The same may be imagined of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Jesus of Nazareth.

Jean-Francois Lyotard, however, having made his mark at the age of 23,(22) worked in a context where one could not keep repeating the same trick. Apart from the lecture circuit, a philosopher has an obligation to keep presenting new 'tricks', or variations on a theme, which he did, for fifty years. Not for him the excited crowd of some hundreds, intoxicated by the occasion, who will believe he 'hype', remember more than they actually saw, and spread the artist's fame, gaining glory by association. No, the philosopher must see his work published, or, like Derrida, engage in recorded seminars. These words will be stored, studied, analysed, generally by people who will see, not more, but less than was presented to them. His words will last, and continue to be read and believed even after he has discarded them and the ideology that inspired them. He may be attacked, ridiculed or, like McLuhan, ignored by his peers and descendants. His leaps into the unknown, though bold and spectacular at the time, may eventually be judged unnecessary and misguided, rather than courageous.

Lyotard will be remembered by academics. His concept of postmodernism (although he did not coin the phrase) will be current until superseded. Like Plato, Marx, Freud and McLuhan he may be remembered by inaccurate slogans, cliches or stereotypes.

Jules Leotard, equally meteoric in his time, had the dubious fortune to have his name attached to a costume. Like other eponyms, Hoover, Biro, Wellington, Sandwich, Macintosh, his associated object will transcend his actual life's achievements. In the history of circus, however, he will always be respected.

How did word of Leotard's achievement travel around the western world in the mid-nineteenth century? In the world of circus, there has always been a bush-telegraph or grape-vine second to none.

Leotard's fame certainly spread far and fast in 1859, as he was celebrated for being the first man to fly through the air. Many promoters and Ringmasters will use the words 'first', 'only' and 'best', and this is thought to be within the generally acceptable limits of ballyhoo. Some artists are obsessed, like Scott of the Antarctic, with the question of priority. A John Heurer of Hamilton, Ohio, advertised in 1883 that he was "the only person on earth who stands with his head on a swinging bar, and while balancing in this difficult position Juggles Balls, Drinks Water, Fires Pistols…." etc. "I challenge the world $1.000 in gold to anyone who will do my act. TRY IT AND BREAK YOUR NECK."(28) It is not easy to ascertain whether philosophers or cultural theorists were ever so adamant about their originality.

Possibly the cult of the personality is not important in the history of philosophy (except, perhaps to publishers). Perhaps each stage completed, like a kilometre of railway track, is simply a necessary connection between the past and the future. Track inspectors, looking back, may ask who was responsible for certain bumps, curves or blind sidings, and students of theory per se will, by reason of academic speciality, choose to get off the train and dwell for years alongside a particular stretch, extolling its virtues.

In the circus, fame and posterity are assured by spectacular innovations (Leotard, Colleano), longevity and popular success (Gunther Gebel-Williams, Coco) or by a spectacular accident (Lilian Leitzel, Karl Wallenda). (29)

However, not all circuses publicise their stars, preferring to promote their own generic name. Some small companies hardly bother, and the advance agent simply plasters the town with signs that "The Circus is Coming!" At the other end of the scale, the first real multi-national circus corporation, "Cirque du Soleil", seldom promotes individual performers. One traditional reason is that the top-billed artist could exert pressure on management for better conditions or pay, threatening to leave, invalidating a season's publicity.

In fact, the apparently radical Soleil follows many of the hallowed circus traditions; saturation marketing, highly visible presence, subtle put-down of the opposition, and most of all that seductive blend of 'otherness' and familiarity. In this case, it is the familiarity that the upmarket clientele feel with comfortable seats and stunning production values. The otherness is represented by trans-cultural titles - Saltimbanco, Alegria, O, Quidam, Dralion, Nouba, and costumes and music belonging to no known culture, yet drawn from many exotic sources.

Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, hitherto known as 'The Big One', traditionally features a star, a la Hollywood, each season. When I saw the Blue Unit in 1984, it was Gebel-Williams, and more recently, in 1996, at Madison Square Garden, it was Airiana who was shot daily from a cannon. This is just a different way of advertising, probably suiting the American market, where sport and entertainment news tends to focus on stories of individuals. Jules Leotard was one of the first performers promoted internationally in this way.

Twentieth century theory has had its share of stars. Many are remembered for phrases that have become cliches. The post-modern phenomenon of books like Idiot's Guide to Existentialism, Socrates for Dummies, and The Tao of Pooh have condemned many serious thinkers to be remembered as cliches. McLuhan is the message, and he was also the guy in the Woody Allen film! Bourdieu has also featured in a film, called "Sociology is a Combat Sport". Derrida has had a radio show, denying responsibility for most of the things he is famous for. Barthes wrote "The Death of the Author". He did the great disappearing illusion. He was seen getting into a box/book, when - Poof! The box/book was seen to be empty! He re-appears upstage as the remarkable author of the text with no author! Deafening applause! Not surprisingly, the literary audience can't wait for the next act. It's Slippery Jack Derrida, the de-constructing man!

In a search for what makes a philosopher famous, we find a pantheon of critics - Benjamin, de Man, Hillis Miller, James, whose analyses can beatify the new arrival on the firmament. We also detect a succession - Humanism, Structuralism, Post-Structuralism, Psychoanalytical criticism. Feminism, Marxism, Queer Theory, New Historicism, Post-Colonialism, Post-Modernism. If not entirely chronological, like the Houses who held the English Throne, they do seem to be mutually exclusive, eclipsing the one before. It does seem to be that after the great Schools of Philosophy, Greek, British, French and German that we are familiar with, the Twentieth Century seems to have delivered, mostly from France, a hit-parade of Fashion Philosophers, with special interest 'Boutique Theories'.

Important to this relationship between circus and theory, Leotard and Lyotard, is that discourse would only go one way. We have no record of Jules Leotard's work being influenced by cultural theory, nor did his act seem to comment on Structuralism, Post-Modernism nor even Liberal Humanism. His one-piece costume may have put him in the avant-garde of Feminism, and a flying man holds central place in the Dream Theory of Psychoanalysis, but these readings must surely be retrospective rather than active, on his part.

Lyotard could speak on Leotard, but not vice versa. Would this make Leotard the farmer, and Lyotard the chef; a primary producer interpreted by a sophisticate who makes palatable the work of a primitive? Or is Leotard the tree, and Lyotard the ivy; the mammal and the tape-worm; the host and the parasite?

In the spirit of 'Deep Wisdom for Shallow Idiots', or 'We're post-modern now, anything goes!', let us invite a group of cultural theorists to the Cirque Napolean to see Jules Leotard, 'That Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze'. Imagine them, clustered in one of the boxes reserved for the aristocracy, or the nouveaux-riches. They have heard the rumours, they have read the bills, and now they are gathered to read the text (see the show).

Jules Leotard ascends a rope ladder to the platform, and grasps the first of three trapezes, suspended over a carpet-covered "safety" catwalk.

Wittgensein: Look, it's a meta-linguistic text, we can all see what he intends. (he leaves).

Derrida: Yes, it's a dishonest pursuit of certainty.

Barthes: A zero degree of sense.

Derrida: No, I mean that Logocentric stuff about "The Flying Man", when there's a good chance he might fall. Nothing is certain, because if it were, it would exclude 'the other'.

Lyotard: Yeah. Let's hear it for the differend! (Aside) Which one is the differend, Leotard or gravity? It's usually more obvious.

Foucaullt: It depends which one has the power.

Derrida: Let's look in the programme. There's nothing outside the text, and it says here he will fly.

Leotard: And I will if I get the chance.

Derrida: Wait, Monsieur Leotard, you cannot do it. Nothing is real because everything is only a cultural, linguistic or historical construct.

Leotard: You come up here and say that.

Foucault: You have the high ground because of an episteme. You have the power; you are white, male and sane.

Leotard: Thank you. Now I shall leap from this trapeze without a safety net.

Foucault: OK Leo, I admit you must be mad. You are legitimate.

Lacan: Hey, Jules, don't forget the unconscious is structured as a language.

Leotard: Shut up. I'm trying to think.

Lacan: Exactly. But what about your gender signifier?

Leotard: It's tucked into my leotard.

Freud: Oops, you nearly slipped.

Bakhtin: Let the Carnival commence!

Saussure: Carnival signifies Clown, which signifies Idiot, which signifies a waste of time

Bakhtin: I wouldn't be so sure if I were you.

Saussure: Well, um, actually, you would.

Bakhtin: That's it. I'm outa here. (he storms off to sit in the cheap seats.)

Hazlitt: Excuse me gentlemen, may I say a few words?

All: No, because you're English, you're a writer, you're lucid, and you're a liberal humanist. Come back later.

Leotard: I'm getting scared.

Lyotard: Just pretend you can fly.

Leotard: But it's just a delusion.

Lyotard: But a delusion can last a long time. How long is your act?

Leotard: Twelve minutes. It'll never work.

Lyotard: Don't be sceptical towards your meta-narrative, that's my job. Do you think you'll make it?

Leotard: Yes, I think so

All: We think you don't think so

Leotard: I think you actually think I think so.

All: We think you think we don't think you think so

Leotard: That's just your theory.

All: Precisely.

Leotard: If you'll excuse me, I have a trapeze to catch.

Saussure (aside): He means a syntagmatic plane to signify…….

etc. etc.

The human race advances by mutations. Individuals and societies move in fits and starts, setting new standards, opening new possibilities for the rest of us. Inventors, explorers, philosophers, mystics, scientists, artists and children are among the names we give to the research and development branch of humanity. Lyotard was a philosopher, and Leotard an artist/inventor/explorer. Lyotard provoked thought and political action, but also criticism and argument. Leotard provoked awe, wonder and inspiration, but little controversy.

In common, they both stepped off a safe platform, attracted attention, generated imitation and opened new territory for their followers. Each is fondly remembered by those who study his field. Each may be unacknowledged by the wider public who benefit from their daring initiatives.

William Hazlitt, the English essayist, who never saw Leotard, did see "Richer, the famous rope-dancer, perform at Sadler's Wells. He was matchless in his art, and added to his extraordinary skill exquisite ease, and unaffected natural grace. I was at that time employed in copying a half-length picture of Sir Joshua Reynolds's; and it put me out of conceit with it. How ill this part was made out in the drawing! How heavy, how slovenly this other was painted! I could not help saying to myself, "If the rope-dancer had performed his task in this manner, leaving so many gaps and blotches in his work, he would have broke his neck long ago…."". (30). Talking about "The Indian Jugglers", but, metaphorically I suggest, for writers and philosophers, he says, "Danger is a good teacher, and makes apt scholars. So are disgrace, defeat, exposure to immediate scorn and laughter. There is no opportunity in such cases for self-delusion, no idling time away, no being off your guard (or you may take the consequences)." (31)

Are philosophy and action mutually exclusive? Can we imagine a composite of Lyotard and Leotard, an artist of action who is also a creative philosopher? Explorers and mountaineers are often reflective, perhaps inspired by solitude and epic endeavour. Will Rogers, the American cowboy rope-spinner, political commentator and fireside philosopher managed the combination. Saint-Exupery, early aviator, writer, philosopher, who like Glen Miller, simply disappeared in flight combined radical action and deep thought. Hemingway, who saw himself as an action man, certainly explored the subject, and spoke of the perfect form of the bullfighter as "grace under pressure", which is what Lyotard certainly needed as his work , his philosophy and his intellect were challenged by others throughout his life.

Sam Keen is a theologian, spiritualist and psychologist who, at 61, discovered and learned flying trapeze in San Francisco. In "Learning to Fly", he talks of "what I call the aerial instinct, the desire to transcend our present condition (as) the defining characteristic of a human being." (32) He also quotes E B White as saying "A writer, like an acrobat, must occasionally try for a stunt that is too much for him." (33)

Three questions arise from the Big Question. Which of the two men is most remembered? Which most deserves to be? Finally, should we be considering an either/or answer at all?

Jules Leotard has many more mentions in Circus histories and dance-wear catalogues . Jean-Francois Lyotard has many more books on shelves, and pages on the internet. While Leotard has a display in the Toulouse Museum, we don't know of a Museum of Post-Modernism. If there is one, there's probably a sign outside, "Closed for De-construction".

The man who was the toast of Europe in the 1860's is almost forgotten. Aficionados honour him for his pioneering leap into space, but if he had not done it, another would have. Already it is argued that Thomas Hanlon may have performed a flying trick, from a swing to a vertical 'web' rope in 1858. (34). Certainly, Leotard was immediately imitated by Circus performers in Europe, Russia and the USA. So we must ask what exactly is his significance. Is he worth the plaque that bears his name on the wall of the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris? An extension of this line of questioning is to debate whether there is any point in celebrating priority in any field. Does it go beyond the crass cataloguing of the Guinness Book of Records?

In the collection of Lyotard's letters, oddly titled, "The Postmodern Explained to Children", he says, "writing a philosophical text, alone at one's table (or taking a walk…..)…….. We write before knowing what to say and how to say it, and in order to find out, if possible. Philosophical writing is ahead of us where it is supposed to be. Like a child, it is premature and insubstantial." (35)

It has always been children who "play on swings". Jules Leotard simply extended the life and scope of his childhood games - professionally. It is children, too, who ask the awkward Big Questions, "Why?" and "Why not?" Jean-Francois Lyotard acknowledged this in his "Address on the Subject of the Course in Philosophy". Writing about the importance of the philosophy course at the College Internationale de Philosophie at Vincennes University, which is very popular among mature students, he says, "Maybe there is more childhood available to thought at thirty-five than at eighteen, and more outside a degree course than in one. A new task for didactic thought: to search out its childhood anywhere and everywhere, even outside childhood." (36)

Perhaps we have arrived at a commonality between Leotard and Lyotard. We need not look for a superiority of one over the other. We need not ask "Which of these heroes most deserves to be recognized by history for their contribution to humanity? Which most deserves to be immortalized in the Pantheon of legendary French pioneers? Which will we talk about to our grandchildren? Which should be represented on a postage stamp? Which has done most to advance his era, his nation, his species? Lyotard, who flew in the face of Structuralism, or Leotard, who simply flew?

From each we learn the potential of the human.


(1) I heard this once on the radio. Possibly attributable to Garrison Keillor, homely philosopher/author of Lake Woebegone.

(2) Mayhew, in his 'Characters', tells of the dangers to street clowns of using 'dry white lead' as face paint.

(3) "an Irishman, Macarte, had his arm torn off on one occasion and lost his life in 1872 while presenting a noisy act with a sword and pistols, in imitation of a so-called lion hunt; he was probably not quite sober at the time" Speaight, George. "A History of the Circus" Pub. London, Tantivy Press, 1980. ISBN 0-498-02470-9 p.83

(4) "Mrs Powell, who appeared at a fete in Aston Park, Birmingham, in July 1863… She was thirty-six years of age and had been walking the tightrope for thirty-three of them, but on this occasion her long experience failed her. A sack was placed over head, for she was to walk the rope blindfolded, but she had hardly gone a yard when she slipped and fell to her death." Croft-Cooke, Rupert, and Cotes, Peter, "Circus a World History", Elek Press, 1976. ISBN 0 236 40051 7. p 122.

(5) With the springboard known as the 'batoude', "many an artist has been killed in trying to turn a triple somersault in this act. In a triple, a man is apt to find himself out of control and there is a serious danger of his falling on the back of his neck." Hippisley-Coxe, Antony, "A Seat at the Circus" 1980 ISBN 0 208 01766 6. p. 204.

(6) Gossard, Steve. "A Reckless Era of Aerial Performance, The Evolution of Trapeze", Self-published, 1991. In my collection. Quoting "The Era" February 5th, 1871. p 32.

(7) Nietzsche, Friedrich, "Zarathustra's Discourses" 1885. Penguin 1995. pp. 7, 40.

(8) Speaight, p73.

(9) Strehly, G "L'Acrobatie et Les Acrobates" Pub. 1903. Re-pub. Libraire S. Zlatin, Paris, 1977. ISBN 2-9500142-1-6. p. 179

(10) Strehly, p. 177 (translated by Reg Bolton)

(11) Words and music by George Leybourne, 1868

(12) Verne, Jules, "Around the World in Eighty Days". (Blondin was the wire-walker who frequently crossed Niagara Falls.)

(13) Nietzsche, Friedrich, "Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense" "We possess nothing but the metaphors of things"

(14) Observed, with some irony, by the Director of the WA Ballet, on ABC radio, around 1995

(15) Dr Seuss, author of "Green Eggs and Ham." Not to be confused with Saussure.

(16) "He was a man of 'peregrinations' (as he called them), through many countries and zones of thought, where he invented an art of hearing the 'otherness' in others and of responding to what was new, odd, amiss around him. Already in 1971, he was attempting to offer a new view of the unconscious in art, at odds with the prevailing linguistic or structural one, opening onto the problems of presenting the unpresentable - seeing what we can't see, thinking what we can't yet think. ……..

"Speaking at Lyotard's funeral, Lionel Jospin, the French Prime Minister, called for a

moment of silence in the Chambre des Deputes."

Artform International Magazine Inc. 1998. John Rajchman.

(17) " The irony is that the story of the disenchantment with grand narratives has become the grandest of postmodern narratives, and has given its author the authority he so contested" Radical Philosophy, 91. 1998. David Macey.

(18) 'Libidinal Economy' (1974) Indiana University Press, 1993

(19) 'The Post-Modern Condition' (1979) Manchester University Press, 1984

(20) 'The Differend: Phrases in Dispute' (1983) Manchester University Press, 1986

(21) 'Just Gaming' (1979) Manchester University Press, 1984

(22) "In 1948 the French review Temps Modernes commissioned three students born in 1925 to

record their observations of life after the war; Lyotard was one of them".

Williams, James. "Lyotard. Towards a Postmodern Philosophy" Polity Press. 1998. ISBN 0-


(23) Hotier, Hughes. "Cirque Communication Culture" Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.

1995. ISBN 2-86781-169-4 p. 209. Translation by Reg Bolton. (see also "Desert Places"

by Robyn Davidson, 1996.)

(24) McConnell, John F. "A Ring, a Horse and a Clown - The Story of the Hannefords" The

author tells how Lucio Cristiani, the famous flier, drove 200 miles one night to see George

Hanneford perform a flying back sault. p. 176

(25) Keen, Sam. "Learning To Fly". Broadway Books, New York. 1999. ISBN 0-7679-0176-2.

p103. James Lipton's "An Exultation of Larks" suggests "A Wrangle of Philosophers" as the

collective noun. "An ecclesia of the air" certainly sounds more companionable.

(26) Broadway, Sue. "Circus Oz, the first seven years: a memoir". Australasian Drama Studies.

No 35. October 1999. ISSN 0810-4123.

(27) Bolton, Reg. "New Circus" Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, London. 1986. ISBN

(28) Gossard. p.17.

(29) Colleano First man to do a Front Somersault on a wire. Gebel-Williams, star animal

trainer for 30 years, USA. Coco, beloved clown of Bertram Mills Circus, England. Leitzel,

legendary aerialist of he 40's, who died when her rigging broke. Wallenda, survivor of

spectacular High Wire feats and accidents, who was blown off an outdoor wire at the age

of 74.

(30) Hazlitt, William, "The Indian Jugglers" from 'Table Talk' pub. 1824. Everyman Edition p. 79

(31) ditto p. 80

(32) Keen, Sam, "Learning to Fly", Broadway Books, NY, 1999. p. 27

(33) Keen p 231

(34) Gossard, p 35

(35) Lyotard, "The Postmodern Explained to Children" Power Publications, Sydney, 1992. p119

(36) ibid., p. 123

(37) Gossard. p35