It was probably no coincidence that Daniel Buren crossed paths with Dan and Fabien Demuynck, two pioneers of contemporary circus. As a child, the circus held a fascination for him that in his teenage years led to a keen interest in the artists who have explored this world through painting (Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Fernand Léger, Georges Rouault and so on) – without him ever thinking that one day he might engage with the subject in his own work.
An initial invitation made to Daniel Buren by the Foraine company in the late 1990s marked the starting point of a fruitful and ongoing collaboration with the two circus artists, giving rise to the creation of BurenCirque at the turn of the 2000s. Combining circus arts, music, singing and visual arts, in a dialogue between Western and African culture, this multidisciplinary project brings together talents from different backgrounds and disciplines in experimental productions, designed on the basis of constant exchange at all levels between its three founders.
Outside, Daniel Buren installs monumental structures of various sizes, redesigning them from one production to the next to redefine the contours of the traditional circus acts being performed within. Inside, tightrope walkers, acrobats, musicians, singers, jugglers and animal trainers interact with the specially created installations. Whether solicited to rethink the traditional space of the circus or to create the sets of an opera, a ballet or any other type of show, a familiar exercise for him, Daniel Buren approaches the project, as he does in the majority of his work, “in situ, in vivo, in vitro and de visu”.
The “Buren method” is therefore operating here in keeping with its inherent principles (response to an invitation, travel, a work process related to space, architecture and context) and its formal language – here and there we find 8.7 cm-wide white bands, touches of colour, mirrors or pennants.
Intimate and colourful spaces
2013 marks a new stage in this collaboration with the creation of a dedicated structure presented in the form of three circus tents or cabanons designed by Daniel Buren. Inspired both by fairground architecture, a genre he renews here, and his famous exploded cabins (cabanes éclatées), each tent frames a circular ring 9 meters in diameter and is made up of two pieces – a square with 11 metre sides topped by a cone whose base is equal and parallel to the circumference of the ring and precisely centred over it. The whole thing is suspended from two external arches on which the “visual tool” appears, black and white here.
According to the artist, the cabanons should ideally fall in the category of “situated works/in situ”. Indeed, starting from a structure that is unchanged in form, each new project generates an adaptation that is defined in situ, as the definition goes, that is, in relation to the architecture and the social, economic and cultural context of the host venue. Standing out brightly in the daytime, at night they appear like lanterns displaying their chromatics with a pulsating translucency. In these intimate and coloured spaces, the spectator is drawn into an intense sensory experience that renews the relationship to space by favouring listening and vision according to two original configurations: either the spectators remain in place and the artists move from one cabanon to another, or they wander from one to the other to watch the performances.