The Swerling Circus of Small
Starring tiny tightrope-walkers, invisible women, clowns smaller than a pea, dancing girls on moons that fit in the palm of a hand…
The Swerling Circus of Small contains all manner of miniature marvels to delight and inspire, a glittering show of miniature circus dioramas held at the Anthropologie Gallery, King's Rd London during Christmas 2018.
Growing up in Cape Town in the early 1980s, we’d go to Muizenberg Beach most days of the summer. We’d swim for hours and lie gossiping on the hot sand behind the beach huts, salty, tangle-haired, happy from too much sun.
So it was already paradise, and then one summer a circus arrived. They set up a stage on the grass behind the concrete toilets and at the end of every day they’d perform. The trapeze artists were the last act – a man and a woman dressed in tight white sparkling leotards. Though it was the mid ’80s, and it smelled a bit of wee, in my mind’s eye their glamour is as timeless and intoxicating as old Hollywood. They stood on their platforms and dusted their hands, and then they flew through the air, catching each other again and again.
One afternoon towards the end of summer, the man lost his grip and fell. The safety net didn’t hold him, somehow. We held our breaths, but he didn’t bounce back up. He just lay on the ground, until eventually an ambulance came and took him away. The next day the grass behind the beach toilets was empty.
Since then I have sometimes thought it is the magic of late afternoon light, that fixes a moment to eternity. Or maybe it is spangly white leotards that hold the key to all mystery, this one certainly, but also the mysteries of time, of Africa, art, beauty, desire, love, death and home.