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Perspectives on agency

Marina Rieger

Dear [insert your name here],


This week’s mobility at CircusInfo Finland has been filled with numerous new encounters and yet another perspective on contemporary circus infrastructure and innovative leadership. Being confined by Covid-19 restrictions and based in the capital area, I am aware of me only interacting within a small frame of the Finnish sector, as well as in a pre-scheduled and hand-picked setting of the New Horizons Leadership Programme. By sharing this with you openly, I hope to set a transparent frame on the theme I would like to explore in today’s blog.

With my own boundaries, but also privileges (being granted access and being able to meet with stakeholders) outlined, I would like to start the dialogue on agency. So, I kindly ask you to enter this space with me, without feeling the need to defend yourself or bound to act, but rather engage in reflecting on your power and privileges. How do you approach diverses perspectives on agency in contemporary circus and performing arts? 

How do you




on agency

in contemporary circus and performing arts?

Only as I am starting to generate synergies and tackling issues that I want to address as part of my NHLP-mobility, am I understanding the defaults of this designed experience. My perspective has been pre-set by my expectations and much of my first week has been observing Finnish circus through the template of an ‘outside-eye,’ expecting to see its international charisma reflecting on national level, only to understand that I was missing a large part of the contextual framing. I am sharing this with you, so that this factor is taken into consideration, when I will try to exchange expertise or ‘value creation models’ in upcoming blogs.

The uniqueness of infrastructure required me to incorporate a multi-perspective on the artification-process of circus in relation to cultural policies. To reflect on:

a) why the contemporary circus sector could develop because of or despite the public or private funding models;

b) taking space or be given a place due to open- or closeminded gatekeepers; 

c) established structures of self-exploitation or sustainable management in urban or nomadic constellations,  through key figure activists or advocates – which will be continued at a later point of the NHLP.

But in relation to last week’s blog: Space | in between | Stage, I would like to underline the need to communicate and be able to provide agency in order to transform and shape a sector’s  infrastructure. Most processes expand over a longer period of time, and sometimes they may appear to be seemingly stagnating. Therefore, action- tracking with the help of targets, as used for the Agenda2030 Sustainable Development Goals is a simple tool to trace capacities to act.


Source: UN Global Goals Agenda 2030

Once the intuitive action-approach is channelled into an analytical and strategic process, framed by the values and targets, there are still various options to take agency within this space, as as Jarkko Lehmus’[1] expressed in his approach on leadership. Or, seeing it from Pisko Anoula’s[2] pragmatic perspective, working with a multi-facetted pioneer and now well-established stakeholder in the performing arts: Things are happening, if somebody is hired.  Simply because development needs commitment at least, when looking from Lotta Vaulo’s[3] perspective. She emphasises how essential it is to formulate leadership key-values and importance of clear communication, especially when processes require time and patience to stay in focus of your aims.

Although many contemporary circus companies may differ from common creative business models in operational structure and work-sharing, ultimately the maintenance of inclusive, safe, and healthy working conditions needs to be incorporated, in order to explore sustainable development capabilities. Therefore, I continue looking for solidary forms of collective coalitions within the public and independent performing arts, that operate within a shared economy using the network as allies. Thus, enabling themselves to take action, but most importantly designing a support mechanism that can demand changes ofto the current principles of the arts market or funding systems.

Bouncing around visions with Kallo Collective as well as NHLP-fellows Inna Huttuen and Jᾱnis Laucenieks, I look forward to discovering more perspectives on how to transform within a cultural sector that has adopted oppressive practices of being that stand in contrast with the diverse and inclusive vision of the art form. 

With a vision there can be capabilities to take action, using agency as a tool to find new resources and shaping necessary transformations.

Transformations may be generated also by starting ‘uncomfortable’ conversations, asking ethical questions, creating participatory processes, shaping accessible and inclusive spaces, working in resourceful and transparent productions, demanding equal opportunities, or imagining diverse futures.

All these are forms of taking action and communicating the future that is already in each one of us! 




[1] Producer at Cirko – Uuden sirkuksen keskus | Cirko – Center for New Circus  

[2] Communications and Outreach Manager at Tanssitatteri Hurjaruuth |Dance Theatre Hurjaruuth [ which is active since 1981]

[3] CircusInfo Finland ’s managing director

Maybe you would like to use one of those resources to take action:

  • If you like worksheets to inspire diverse transformation, download:  Questions and Qualities for Inclusive Organizations by New Visions. [1]

  • If you like a checklist for taking environmental action as touring artist/ manager/ venue/ or member organization, make use of the classic: “What you can do” in: Green Mobility Guide- A guide for environmentally sustainability in the performing arts by Julie’s Bicycle , 2011. page 7-12 [4.0-4.4]

       Download here: 

  • Not sure how to start cultural change and create leadership development opportunities in your working environment? Maybe this guide helps you to get started: “How to create formal informal professional development tools” in: Culture Change Guide by Arts Council England , 2017  


       Download here: ​

[1] a “...consultancy that supports leaders and organizations in becoming more divers, just and inclusive”

Published on: 8. December 2020

NHLP has been made possible with the support of Nordisk Kulturfond and Nordic culture Point, Nordic Council of Ministers, and Lund Municipality


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