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vale pierrot bidon

january 1,1954-march 9, 2010


Pierrot Bidon Pierrot Bidon
photo Philippe Cibille
FITTINGLY, THE LAST ACTION OF PIERROT BIDON WAS TO GIVE THE PEACE/LOVE SIGN WITH THE LEFT HAND, AND THE THIRD FINGER UP WITH THE RIGHT.

A larger-than-life showman and director, Bidon is rightly credited with revolutionising the stagnant artform of traditional circus into the post-industrial, often edgy and certainly evolving artform that we have today.

From travelling Cirque Bidon (1975) to the small villages of France and Italy with horses, gypsy caravans and an open-air show, to the formation of Archaos in 1986, he led the way. As a tightrope walker he was already deconstructing the form—playing with the contract between performer and audience that had previously been sacrosanct in circus. Miked up, he would provide a personal, almost contemptuous, commentary on audience expectations of a ‘death defying feat’ and how he could, so easily, feed their appetite for proximity to close calls and disaster.

Archaos, subtitled Cirque Revolutionnaire and Cirque de Caractere, was a complete assault on the senses. It was a radical evolution: the smell of greasepaint, sawdust and animals replaced by petrol, oxy-acetylene torches, burning rubber and pyrotechnics. No sequins, spangles or red noses, but crash helmets, corrugated iron and boiler suits. No horses, lions or elephants but motor bikes, juggled chainsaws and fork lift trapeze rigs with a rock ’n’ roll, Mad Max/punk, apocalyptic aesthetic that was loud, in your face and literally explosive.

“ We are the animals” he declared, a simple statement that set the city fathers aquiver. Publicity was always as entertaining as the show and intended to rattle cages. “It’s our mission to shock society. I’m here to shoot society in the head,” said Bidon. Cars fell in half as he arrived for the assembled press. There were motorbike stunts over stationary traffic in an unsuspecting city. Daring stuff, but mostly it was mischievous and cheeky, albeit with the underlying and ever-present threat of anarchy.

Post Archaos, Pierrot set about helping those less fortunate—the streetpeople who inspired him. In the shanty towns of Brazil, street performance workshops led to the creation of Circo Madrugada. In 1998, in Conakry, Guinea, he created Cirque Baoboab, a circus spectacular that toured extensively with jugglers, dancers, acrobats and a West African beat.

The Archaos tour to Adelaide and Melbourne in 1990 had an enormous and enduring influence that changed circus in Australia forever. “We are free,” he claimed and then showed us the possibilities. The blinkers were off. Archaos inspired a new generation of circus performers and created a climate, both here and overseas, where new circus could flourish. We reap the benefits with a popular, burgeoning form that can traverse genres while respectfully and proudly remaining ‘circus.’

For fearlessly leading the way with astounding skill, artistry and thrilling showmanship, we salute you, Pierrot. Peace, love and third finger up!

Janine Peacock


After the expansive experience of working with Archaos on the 1990 tour to Adelaide and Melbourne, Janine Peacock travelled the world with Australian and French companies. In 2009 she was awarded an Australia Council-Community Partnerships Creative Producer Initiative and is now operating as a facilitator for independent artists and projects under the banner Loose Canon Art Services.

RealTime issue #97 June-July 2010 pg. 14

© Janine Peacock; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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