The public call out for the inaugural CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2021 initiative asked audiences to submit a 2.5 minute film in response to the theme ‘Communion’ set by interdisciplinary artist and lecturer, Angel Rose. After receiving 2,000 applications, we are proud to present the 30 finalists who will each receive access to the Dazed Space and have their work exhibited as part of the CIRCA programme, appearing across public screens in London, Tokyo and Seoul this September.
Expanding on their commitment to help support the talent of tomorrow, CIRCA and Dazed appointed a community of jurors including Cauleen Smith, Frank Lebon, Hugo Comte, Simone Rocha, Dexter Navy, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Michele Lamy to select their top 5 submissions. From this, one lucky finalist will be selected by world renowned performance artist Marina Abramović to receive the #CIRCAECONOMY cash prize of £30,000.
With public art spaces diminishing, investment in arts education being cut and artist communities at risk, this joint initiative aims to empower the next generation of artists working in moving-image by platforming new voices and points of view from local communities on a global level, giving them unrivalled media exposure and the tools to help kick start their careers.
My name is Brin Schoellkopf and I am a performance and visual artist living in Montreal. As a recent graduate of the National Circus School, I spent the past few years touring internationally with contemporary circus company, Les 7 Doigts. Covid-19 has severely impacted the performing arts, forcing our community to adapt the ways in which we share our art with the world. I spent this year further developing my craft in filmmaking and photography, distinguishing the elements that are used in live performance, and exaggerating them through my camera lens, and editing skills.
In January, I had the opportunity to volunteer in Cape Town at a social circus organisation. Zip Zap Circus was co-founded by Brent van Rensburg and Laurence Estève, who had a dream to use circus as a tool to bridge socio-economic gaps and empower youth to build a new culture of peaceful co-existence in South Africa. Sabine Van Rensburg, Samuel Renaud and I co-directed a 50 minute film as a fundraiser for the circus school who, like many, has been severely impacted by the pandemic.
This is an extract from MOYA, an acrobatic art film rooted in South African culture. The scene that we have chosen tells the history of gumboots, a traditional South African dance that was born in the gold mines at the height of the migrant labour system during Apartheid. This dance is extremely physical and serves as a cathartic release which celebrates the body as an instrument. This piece is a strong representation of the communion that lies at the history of gumboots, and what Zip Zap Circus ultimately stands for. It is a reflection of the past, present and future of this multicultural cast & nation, which is celebrated through the beauty of art and movement to bring people together.
How did you become an artist and what was your route to your current practice?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: For me, the process of becoming an artist has been a lot about self acceptance and understanding how I can authentically express myself. In general, I think that my route has been quite untraditional. I am often connected to what brings me sensation in the moment and I follow this intuition, flowing in and out a lot from various practices. This keeps me really curious, which is essential to me as an artist. What I love most about playing within different artistic mediums is that it brings out such different aspects of my creative approach, ultimately giving me more tools to play with. Most of my career has been oriented around the circus arts. But integrating my love for film and photography has allowed me to create new paths and aspirations for myself.
What inspires you to make your work?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: I have always placed a lot of value on blending various art forms together to help excel each individual practice. I think that this crossover between circus and filmmaking/photography keeps me curious and inspired. I am honest to the fact that my process as a filmmaker is incredibly influenced by how I have been trained as a performer. It completely changes what I am drawn to, and also how I want the experience to be. Because I have been able to exist on both sides of the camera lens, it allows me to live the shooting process in a different way, and not only think about the final product. In my work as a performer, improvisation is a key aspect that I use to connect myself to my surroundings in the present moment. I find myself using a lot of these same intuitions when I am behind the camera, and communicating with my subjects. It really is a dance to me,how the hands holding the camera react to the subject and where it moves in the space. I like thinking about the tension that is held between the camera and subject, and what this conversation represents. I like spontaneity and being truthful to how I feel in the moment because it always allows me to look back at the experience in a more fulfilling way. I react to rhythm and composition a lot, which is what made this piece so fun to create.
Can you identify any elements of your community or collaborators that have had a strong influence?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: If I look at the circus community as a whole, not only has it had a direct influence on my work, but it’s the reason I ventured into filmmaking. Working in this environment gives me a lot of permission to explore and try ideas as a way to exaggerate how the artists envision their work on stage. I like exploring the different variables that film has to offer as an extension of these concepts.
With the project that I have submitted, I truly owe this experience to so many close friends and collaborators that made it happen. This film came about very spontaneously when my friend and colleague, Sabine Van Rensburg, invited me to volunteer at a social circus in Cape Town, South Africa. Zip Zap Circus was co-founded by Brent van Rensburg and Laurence Estève, who had a dream to use circus as a tool to bridge socio-economic gaps and empower youth to build a new culture of peaceful co-existence in South Africa. We spent 3 months creating a 50 minute film as a fundraiser for this non-profit organization who, like many, have been extremely impacted by the pandemic. The love that is shared within the community at Zip Zap Circus is the core reason why we were able to create this film with so many obstacles against us. Every single person involved held an essential role, enabling us to thrive as a unit.
Would you consider your practice to have a positive social impact, and if so in what way?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: Yes, I think that my recent work as a performer and visual artist has begun to reflect my personal growth and acceptance with my queerness. I hope to explore this more in my future creative pursuits as I think it can only bring more awareness and acceptance towards the LGBTQ community.
Creating MOYA has been significant in bringing forth attention towards the issues that South Africa is still facing from the impacts of Apartheid. The film reflects largely what Zip Zap Circus stands for, and the 30 years of work they have put into bridging the social and economic gaps that are still prominent in this country’s culture. Creating this film had a much more direct tie to social justice than most of my work as a performer has had so far. Film has been an important shift for me to learn the sensibility in telling other people’s stories. I was aware of the socio-economic divide between my upbringing and many of these artists before coming, but listening to their personal experiences grounded me in the history of their country and also how I felt I could most authentically represent them throughout the film. I think the artists were also able to see themselves and their art in a different way after watching what we created, which allowed their community to evolve extensively throughout this experience as well.
How is your project tied to the Circa x Dazed Class of 20:21 theme of ‘Communion’?:
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: Our project tells the history of gumboots, a traditional South African dance that was born in the gold mines at the height of the migrant labour system during Apartheid. The dance is extremely physical and serves as a cathartic release which celebrates the body as an instrument. This piece is a strong representation of the communion that lies at the history of gumboots, and what Zip Zap Circus ultimately stands for. It is a reflection of the past, present and future of this multicultural cast & nation, which is celebrated through the beauty of art and movement to bring people together.
Has your work been recognised by any public bodies or organisations in the past?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: As a filmmaker, my work has not been recognized in a public way.
How would the #CIRCAECONOMY prize of £30,000 impact your future practice?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: Being recognized as a finalist for #CIRCAECONOMY prize has given me the confidence to pursue filmmaking. For some time now, I have been hovering in a grey zone between performance art and filmmaking/photography, which in many ways has allowed me to develop my craft and learn immensely through multiple experiences. However, winning this prize would create a deep sense of validation. The funding would further my education and be the first step in gaining the technical training that I believe I need in order to develop my work and skill set.
What would you do with the money?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: Receiving this money would open up so many potential opportunities to further my training as a filmmaker and hone in on which expertise I would like to pursue in this career path. I would use a portion of the money to start my education in order to make this shift in a more legitimate way. It would also be important to me to donate a portion of the money to Zip Zap Circus in order to support their beneficiaries and outreach programs which target youth-at-risk in South Africa.
If you are awarded the #CIRCAECONOMY prize, how might this affect your community?
BRIN SCHOELLKOPT: The visibility that CIRCA offers is one that is undeniably going to change my career forever and that of my community. There is immense diversity that exists within the circus community, however it remains unseen. Contemporary circus has blossomed in the past 30 years, but there is often a preconceived idea of what circus is for a mainstream audience. Winning this prize would allow me to further this relationship between film and contemporary circus, bringing recognition to the community as a whole. My goal is to blend these art forms and create in harmony. The prize would be enabling this passionate merge and fusion, providing a platform to share the art that is being created in our community.
It would not only give me validation as a filmmaker, but also as a performer. I hope that in the years to come, I can continue to highlight the importance of cross contamination of art forms through the medium of film. As well as elevate the experiences of my diverse and expansive community.