1987 ARCHAOS in France

Creativity was everywhere, lighting was fantastic. This scene Looks like a frame extracted from 1927 Fritz Lang's Metropolis film.

Creativity was everywhere, lighting was fantastic. This scene Looks like a frame extracted from 1927 Fritz Lang's Metropolis film.

Long before any other Circus (such as world famous “Le Cirque du Soleil”), Archaos was the very first contemporary, alternative, theatrical circus of its time.

Photos by Franc Peret (ISO400 Slide Film)

Fighting Clowns with chainsaws

Created in 1986 by Pierrot Bidon, this circus without animals (except a pig), was featuring dangerous stunts like chainsaw juggling, fire breathing, wall of death and so on.

The performance under the huge tent was a mix of action, aestheticism, destruction, derision, poetry, theater play and live music with “The Thunderdogs” an independent alternative rock band playing during all the show, with masterpieces such as “Beautiful Destruction” or “Underworld” (I still have their CD they were selling at the end of the show).

Dreaming to be a clown with a chainsaw

Archaos got international success during a World tour starting in 1989, especially in England where it won « The best name », Oscar of the most creative artistic proposition of the year.

Car Crashes, smoke and Alternative Rock, welcome to Archaos

One of my best friend, Stephane, was part of the show doing motorcycle stunts and he gave me the opportunity to assist to the performance to take some pictures in the dark, to do some mind-blowing interviews and to write a story about it in a magazine (I have to find it back and do a scan).

Gym on a London Cab
Magician: The candle is burning a finger, the smoke is coming out from the mouth.

I was so shocked and seduced by the global “Madmaxian” atmosphere of this anti-conformist Universe that I was considering to leave my journalistic work and my (almost) sedentary life to join the Archaos experimental group.

Full metal Jacket clown

Unfortunately, I had no talent for it, despite my kid’s dream to become a clown one day…
I partly succeeded. though, as I am making my photography Students laughing a lot during my classes.

Following erratic movement in the dark

Here are some of the shots I took back in 1987 and 1988.

Finding the balance in colonial gears
Grace and muscles

The very dramatic lighting and random movement represented tough conditions, especially with slide film, which didn’t offer any latitude in exposure mistakes, compare to negative for film or (even much more correctable) digital raw file.

Car destruction workshop

I was using a Nikon FE2 in full manual mode (exposure and focus) with some bright prime lenses such as 50mmf1.4 and 85mm f2.

Construction Machine on the scene were part of the sound and smoke mix to create a contrast between flesh and steel.
Jumping out the table, I underestimated how high the acrobat was going to be

By experience and observation, I had to guess and adjust according subject movement and pursuit light strength to get both focus, exposure and composition right.

Controlling Emotion for good

Most difficult thing, actually, was to not get too emotional because of the exciting live music and the thrilling performance in front of my eyes.
I had to concentrate on my shooting without enjoying the show as deep as I would like.
Being a photo journalist, I was not an usual spectator anymore, but a magic moments collector.

A last move on the roof

You don’t need to search on Google or Youtube “CIRQUE PIERROT BIDON”, “PIERROT LE FOU BIDON” or “CIRCUS ARCHAOS”, to find interesting stuff about it, anymore.

Thanks to Mischa (Bouinax), the best place to find everything collected to keep alive Archaos memories is here: http://archaos.info/index.aspx

Archaos was a start of a new trend of choreographic shows, but as everything creative getting mainstream (like this show organized by French Lottery, La française des jeux), the original “borderline” concept got sweeten a lot and lost its soul to fit the “acceptable” for the mass.

You must have a look at this amazing collection of videos, pictures and stories, even it will never replace the feeling of being there. You are going to miss the exhaust pipe’s smoke, the steel sparks and the burning smell!

Former photo journalist, Film maker and ELC Shanghai Photography teacher, Franc Peret is teaching Essential Photography Classes, Advanced Photography Workshop and Film Making Classes in Shanghai, for the last 10 years.