In April 2018, Carolyn Watt, PONToon project PhD student and Enterprise and Innovation Assistant travelled to Canberra Australia to present at the conference Imagineers in Circus and Science: Scientific Knowledge and Creative Imagination 3rd – 5th April 2018, hosted by the Australian National University College of Arts and Social Sciences, Humanities Research Centre.
Carolyn’s practice-based PhD is part funded by the Interreg 5A France (Channel) England Research project PONToon, June 2017 – November 2020, led by the University of Portsmouth UK. PONToon (Partnership Opportunities using New Technologies fostering sOcial and ecOnomic inclusion) aims to foster female social inclusion via the use of digital and creative technologies.
The conference explored connections between the Arts of the Ring in different media and the discourses of science, intricate synergies, hidden relationship and captivating narratives in circus and science. Speakers discussed relationships between scientific knowledge and creative imagination, ingenious scientific discoveries, circus and technological innovation, entrepreneurial adventures, innovation and the use of art to facilitate the transfer of knowledge. The conference included keynote speeches from academics across Australia, Switzerland and Japan.
Carolyn presented her paper Social circus enhanced by digital technologies to foster female empowerment, which showcased the PONToon project and her pilot study findings at this midway point in her research. Lavers, a performance and circus arts scholar and creative producer, describes social circus as taking ‘the notion of circus for everybody, the tenet of new circus, and applies it to a radical agenda – using circus as a tool to promote social transformation.’ (2016, p. 509, italics author’s own). Traditionally, circus has to some extent used technology in order to create the spectacle and circus has broad appeal. In this case circus is being used as a tool to promote female empowerment and digital upskilling. In Carolyn’s PONToon project PhD pilot study female participants felt empowered by learning a new and difficult skill; the notion of women doing aerial for themselves, as opposed to being watched, introduces interesting contradictions around live performance and the use of digital technology within circus to convey experience.
The conference provided an opportunity to share some of her work in progress in the form of an immersive video, which incorporates the use of a point of view head camera, interview recording and soundscape.
Lavers, K. (2016) The resilient body in social circus: Father Jesus Silva, Boris Cyrulnik and Peter A. Levine. In: Lavers, K. & Tait, P. eds. The Routledge Circus Studies Reader. Oxon; New York: Routledge, pp. 508 – 527.