Moments of calm and silence full of movement...
Author: Nelly Platzer
I have an Austrian sign language name. I take both of my hands, put them close to my face next to my eyes and wiggle my fingers, a bit like hinting that it's raining- but it's glittering. Nelly in glitter. That's how you could see me running around during the two circus projects I organised with wonderful people from the Rhizomatic Circus Collective. In the following I will refer to one of these projects which taught me lots of things...

When I think back to summer 2020 I can still remember the feeling of being so excited and nervous meeting some people from the collective for the first time. My friend Sasha and I were going to an open training week in styria - we wanted to connect with circus people. There they were, welcoming us with open arms, letting me feel a part of something I dreamed of. If you hold your Hand with the palm facing upwards, put your fingers together while turning your hand in a half circle and pull it down a bit - it means "Rhizomatic" - a contemporary circus collective, wonderful creative crazy people. I spent one week with them - after that I was curious. Then I was like "OK". And now I am like "how can I be part of a project?" - I put my thumb and index finger together and hold my hand in front of my forehead - "no idea". I asked a person from the collective and she said there was that Alma who wanted to organise a circus convention.

Sasha and I got to know Alma via Zoom. Meeting online was OK. As a lot of people lately, we got used to it and made it nice for us. A check-in round at the beginning of every meeting helped us to get there and to know in which mood we were. Most of the time they were late evening meetings because all three of us were very busy. We worked half a year together until we finally met each other in person for the first time at the project location. It was a good setting: beautiful little town, circus waggons and – this one is kind of complicated – you put the fingertips of your ring finger, middle finger and index finger of both your hands together – like a little roof – keep letting them together while pulling your fingertips down, you detach your fingertips from each other taking your ring finger, middle finger and index finger down while pointing both little fingers and both thumbs at each other and pull this circle you create with them down a bit – a "Circustent".

We started planning the Rhizovention in October 2020 – a Circus Convention for young people taking place in a town called Drosendorf in lower Austria. Everything was new to me – writing an application to get funding from a Lower Austrian Funding Agency, calculating the project, doing a crowdfunding and then – so many things I can't even tell. It was intense, but we had a really good team connection. It helped a lot that we were all so motivated to realise what we had imagined for the project - a beautiful circustown, workshops of different circus disciplines, good food, an Open Stage Show and sign language courses.

More and more I was realising that I can call that work. People around me, seeing me putting my energy in it, reminded me of that. So besides University I had to learn how to organise my time for the work on the project, which sometimes was very hard. But I liked working so independently. With every step and month, we got closer to the Convention, which took place in September 2021. It got crazier, and I felt more and more that it's something big and we were about to make it happen.

I form a ball with my hand and put it on my nose- "clown". There is this person called Franz who has been part of the Rhizomatic for many years now. He is hearing-impaired and communicates among others via Austrian sign language. Franz is a clown who can teach sign language very well. We decided to let it be an important part of the project in forms of everyday workshops in the morning and bilingual moderation of the show at the end of the weekend. It's damn hard to find funding for sign language translation costs in Austria. Hold the thumb of one hand up, put the whole other hand around the thumb and pull it out of it - "shit". We asked ourselves how then can we reach the point where hard of hearing and deaf people can participate in art? - "Future brings improvisation" - will we need to improvise to fund translation costs? Finally, a person from the collective and another friend translated voluntarily for Franz - this is a very-very exhausting work. I put my flat hand to my chin and touch it with my fingertips, I move it away from me - "thank you". For future projects there has to be another solution. Translators need to get paid for their work. And hard of hearing and deaf people should be able to participate in art equally. Therefore, it's necessary that Austrian funding opportunities get expanded.

When the Rhizovention took place, it was like a drive. A wonderful drive with lack of sleep but full of adrenaline. During the endless pyjama party meetings, we worked until very late at night, then we were getting up early, waking up in the silence of the place knowing that soon it will be full of people, sounds and movement.

The sign language workshops were moments of calm and silence full of movement. I liked to watch the faces of the people - focused expression, bright eyes. There was so much joy and energy in those moments. Every time I crossed the kitchen tent, I saw Franz sitting at the table chatting with a bunch of motivated "students" – there was so much laughter. At first it was a hurdle for me to dare to communicate with the signs I had learned. I felt very clumsy. But Franz made it easy for me to use them. He motivated me to just start signing. Normally it's more than just the signs with the hands. There is so much face expression in forms of shapes that your mouth takes movements that your body makes. But I do it step by step, still focused on my hands.

I hold both of my hands close to each other, fingertips to the top – I form kind of a bud, turning my hands left and right, I wiggle my fingers - "fire". I was on fire the whole weekend. There was this moment when I sat next to the big circus tent, watching the fire dance workshop, seeing all that light and the people being so brave playing with the flames. I realized that a dream of mine got real. During the projects I felt very supported by the collective. Finally, many people had time to see what Alma, Sasha and I were working on for months. This living together in the circus town, waking up together, seeing each other every day – it felt good.

It leaves a good feeling. I want to continue creating places like that.

If you hold your hand with the palm facing upwards, put your fingers together while turning your hand in a half circle and pull it down a bit, if you then move your wrist to make circles - you get "Rhizovention". Franz created this name. For me, the circles are these movements that were there - all those beautiful people being part of the project learning and creating together – making the place alive.
Author: Nelly Platzer
Photo: Polina Pappinen