Pushing the limits of the human body

“The first incarnation of Circus Mundus Absurdus saw the light of day back in 1999, when I met Antti Kervinen and Eero Auvinen in art school in Tampere. It started off as an experimental circus / art project The early performances mostly consisted of traditional fakir stunts, like walking on broken glass, eating light bulbs, contortionism, the bed-of-nails, fire spitting and eating, plus Eero's juggling routines. Lassi and Jussi joined the group later, bringing with them a lot of piercing know-how and encouraging us to develop the shows further. Over the years, the concept of CMA has evolved considerably both theatrically and aesthetically and includes more demanding stunts like suspensions and hook-play in our shows. So we have gradually grown towards a more intense style of adult circus – not that we intentionally try to be “extreme”: that has never been our aim.”

So how many members do you have nowadays and what are the criteria for joining Circus Mundus Absurdus?
We are five people in the group nowadays. There is no definite “criteria” for joining the group, nor are we recruiting new members As a five-piece, it's still realistic to travel with a relatively small budget, and it's always fun to collaborate with other artists and musicians, so it makes sense not to try and expand too much. It's been a process of natural selection, I would say.
Lately we've been working with a fabulous free jazz trio called Black Motor from Tampere, plus a few guest musicians and performers, so the full-scale CMA show nowadays has a crew of 12. It's much better than just the five of us – you can't beat a live soundtrack – but the five of us can still pull off a full-on performance.

What can people expect when watching your performances?
A lot of black humour and twisted clownery, plus an intense physical performance in the form of an absurd theatre play: stretching skin, scorching flames, dripping blood, wide grins… Full-on entertainment, for sure, as our aim is to put on a really good show. Mostly, very diverse audiences seem to enjoy our shows – but on the other hand, people have also been known to faint or throw up, as they’ve not been able to handle the intensity. So be warned: CMA shows are not suitable for children or especially sensitive individuals.

Do you enjoy indulging in painful activities?
The pain is an integral part of what we do, but it is not the part that we enjoy. The pain is there to enable us to keep in control of what we do. There is so much more to the whole experience of planning and carrying out a show like ours that we do not pay that much attention to the pain, as it is something that we already automatically just deal with. The endorphins triggered by intense physical sensation, though – that is something quite enjoyable! And we sure enjoy doing the Circus Mundus Absurdus shows – it’s a shit load of fun.

Have you had any accidents while performing a show?
Well, for one, all fire-eaters get burned. Nowadays it happens very rarely, but fire is still fire (as in: HOT). So far we've done something like 300 shows, so small scale accidents (like minor cuts and bruises) are bound to happen every now and then. What we do is very physical, but we've never had any serious accidents. We know what we're doing – even though our shows can appear chaotic or out of control, that's all theatre. The stunts are all for real, of course, and yeah, I can admit having cut my foot on broken glass a few times over the years, but it's rare. I've also had a nipple ring ripped off once – a freak accident, I think you’d call it.

{mosimage}You just came back from USA a few days ago. How were the shows there? Was it the first time you performed in America?
The US tour was done under the moniker of The Bloody Tourists, since it was just the three of us (Jussi, Wisa & Lassi) rather than the whole group. It was the first time we had performed in USA. We had three shows and the response everywhere was ecstatic. We were quite surprised with the overwhelming audience reactions ourselves, since there's a lot of very powerful and impressive stuff being done around the US. For example, while suspensions are still quite rare in Finland, and not that common in Europe anyway, in the States a lot of people get suspended on a regular basis -they look at it almost as a hobby, or an art form, and think nothing of getting some hooks on their backs (or elbows, or knees, or chests) every now and then. Which is cool!
We performed in Portland, Oregon with Societas Insomnia & Power Circus and in Las Vegas, Nevada and Albuquerque, New Mexico with the Swing Shift Side Show and the Ascension Suspension Team. The US road trip was a great experience; we got to work with some really great people and will definitely try to get the whole crew over the next time.

I know that Lassi has done some porn also. We had a Finnish porn industry story a couple of months ago actually.
Lassi did a number of porn films as an actor a few years back, and has moved on to producing skin flicks. That is got nothing to do with CMA, though, except that he is got no inhibitions about showing his dick onstage. Or suspending heavy weights from it. Or getting it grinded. Or…

Interesting …  Anyway, any other information you would like to share with us?

Well, I should mention that there is a self-released CMA DVD coming out in May, featuring a 73-minute video documentary of our adventures so far, plus a few extras (including Jussi's 150-meter-high suspension!) -so order it through our website and you'll be supporting Finnish freak circus culture!

For more information, check out their website www. mundusabsurdus.com