New circusí as metaphorical embodiment of the mystical and the aesthetic with special reference to La Cirque du Soleil

By Roger Prentice

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #62
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 8–12, 2005
(see list of papers from #62)

    Self-indulgent, bourgeois kitsch or a new multi-media art form to rank with grand opera: is the 'new circus' an art form worthy of serious consideration? In recently discovering this new art form I have been deeply affected by its potential for the theory and practice of Bahá'í-inspired education. It serves, so I will argue, both as an inspiring extended metaphor for holistic educational process, and as a potential for innovatory structuring of education. Here I want particularly to examine its relationship to spirituality and spiritualization.

    Continuing the theme of a previous presentation that asked how cinematic experience might be deemed 'mystical', this paper asks whether the 'new circus' is capable of high-order aesthetic experience that 'echoes' mystical experience. Is the 'new' circus' part of a paradigmatic shift artistically and spiritually--a shift in line with positive aspects of the transformation that has been going on since the manifestation of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation? Or ought we simply dismiss it as gaudy trash, a kind of postmodernist fool's gold?

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