• A Festival of Ideas
  • May 2 - 5, 2024
  • Guelph

On Being Clown: Failing and Reconciling in Canada

Saturday, January 21, 2017; 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Performance by clown artists Julia Lane, Jan Henderson, Christine Lesiak, Barry Bilinsky, Mike Kennard, Heather Annis, and Amy Lee.
Music performance by Tara Williamson.

For settlers, reconciliation requires the ability and the will to acknowledge, to absorb, and confront our failures. Throughout our lives we are taught to avoid and erase failure, and to seek out and embody the familiar markers of success defined by the dominant culture. As a practice embedded in several cultures and traditions, clowning disrupts conventional understanding of, and relationships to failure and success. For the clown, the path to success is often informed and enriched through a fearless relationship with failure. Given this unique privileging of the potential and possibilities achieved through failure, clowns may be well positioned to offer unique insights and tools into important actions of advancing (radical) reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the place we now call Canada.

What does it mean to be a clown? Who are the contemporary Canadian Clowns? Where are they? How did they get there and, oh my, what are they doing? We have gathered together six influential clown performers and one clown moderator, whose work stems from distinct traditions and whose performative styles vary widely. These seven contemporary artists put their heads (and also the rest of their bodies) together, to consider the tradition of clowning in Canada, the notion of failure, and its role in the reconciliation process. This hybrid discussion/performance was insightful, eventful, impactful, disruptive, distinct, and, above all, thought provoking.

This event was co-curated by Julia Lane, a clown scholar at Simon Fraser University, and Elwood Jimmy, program coordinator at Musagetes.


River Run Centre,
Woolwich Street,
Guelph, ON.