Joseph Cornell's "Clowns, elephants and ballerinas" : archive and performance

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Welch, Elizabeth Jean

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In this thesis, I explore the June 1946 issue of Dance Index: Joseph Cornell’s “Clowns, Elephants and Ballerinas.” Through the archive of materials collected and presented by Cornell, I attempt to understand the histories of performance offered to the magazine’s readers. Despite the rich field of scholarship dedicated to Cornell and his art, very little work has been dedicated to his contributions to Dance Index. I interpret “Clowns, Elephants and Ballerinas” as both a collage and a series of histories, and I present the magazine as a serious work in Cornell’s oeuvre. I also endeavor to provide an understanding of Cornell’s working method, his sense of history, and the ways his juxtapositions of word and image provide meaning to readers. Weaving together the visual and textual, contemporary and historical, Cornell explores performance legacies, American and European exchange, and pantomime, dance, and circus performance tradition through this magazine issue. Cornell uses each of his diverse materials to explore larger social and political issues as well as artistic traditions. “Clowns, Elephants and Ballerinas” represents a crystallization of a moment in one of his many “explorations.”




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