The Sideshow of the Absurd is an interactive fantasy scenario which references the visual culture of the traveling carnival while exploring contemporary notions of femaleness and female power. Designed as a multi-media installation, the Sideshow’s intention is to simultaneously disseminate information and nostalgia for a lost indigenous American art form, and to stimulate ideas, provoke thought and act as a catalyst for understanding the present. The exhibition consists of a series of three dimensional sculptures that gyrate, twist and sway through the use of built-in mechanical devices. Each sculpture features a woman in a potentially precarious situation: The Cat Woman raising a heavy cat above her head, The Virgins dwarfed by huge golden, winged unicorns and The Lady Sword-Swallower, etc. Accompanied by large, colorful banners and carnival sounds, the works draw viewers in to emotionally participate in each scenario. The very notion of a sideshow implies “otherness,” the displaying of freaks, people “who are not like us.” Therefore, an underlying theme of the exhibition is tolerance, facing viewers with difference as a source of power and strength rather than fear.
“With my crew of artist carnies, I have taken this contemporary sideshow on the road to various venues, just as carnivals in the past would travel, bringing new, provocative sights to different and diverse audiences and locales. In doing so, I hope to engage viewers with some of the absurdities that fate and chance bring into our lives and suggest an awareness of our vulnerabilities, our childlike side, and the violence that can lurk behind façade.” —Pamela Joseph