Raise the Curtain for the JKU’s New Ringmaster

As of today, cultural manager Airan Berg will head the Johannes Kepler University’s new "Circus of Knowledge".

Airan Berg - the new "Ringmaster"
Airan Berg - the new "Ringmaster"

Airan Bern will bring science and the arts together to create a program featuring innovative formats and educational approaches designed to take visitors on a journey into the cosmos of Universitas. The new program will be introduced in the spring of 2022.

JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas remarked: "As a university, our mission is to transfer knowledge to the wider society and the new 'Circus of Knowledge' embodies exactly this. I believe the new Circus ringmaster, Airan Berg, will apply his valuable experience as a theater maker and artistic director, creating a program that will inspire, surprise, delight, and invite the young – and those young at heart - to discover the university as an arena for science and art."

Airan Berg’s new role as “Ringmaster” fulfills a childhood dream:

"It's a wonderful privilege to be able to apply my professional and personal experience into building a circus. And it’s not just any circus; the 'Circus of Knowledge' will be an integrative part of the JKU’s inner core at the heart of research and education. There couldn’t be a more enjoyable kind of circus!"

A Circus of Art and Science

The grand opening ceremony for the "Circus of Knowledge" took place on September 8 of this year, in the presence of Austrian President Van der Bellen. The new “Circus of Knowledge” near Schloss Auhof will be a place of wonder and magic where those who are young – and young at heart – can become better acquainted with the university and enjoy a special kind of circus that brings science and the arts together; a place where experiments will smoke, hiss, whistle and engage visitors with all of their senses. It will be a place where academics, researchers, scientists, artists, actors, puppets, clowns and acrobats can share what they know, breaking down barriers and creating an open but yet inclusive space that will make science and the arts accessible to all.

Over the next few months, “Ringmaster” Airan Berg will create the program and initiate ongoing operations: "We are only at the very start of the road; defining our areas of focus and creating the program will be a research effort in itself. The 'Circus of Knowledge' has great potential, especially in regard to space and content together with the JKU. The JKU’s various faculties and schools will be involved and this will greatly influence our program of events. In addition, a few existing collaboration efforts with other educational and cultural institutions will influence our activities. We are planning on featuring in-house productions as well as local & international co-productions, guest performances, and small festivals."

Similar to the successful Ars Electronica Festival held at the JKU for two years in a row, the "Circus of Knowledge" also aims to bring science and the arts together. Christopher Lindinger, Vice-Rector for Innovation and Researchers, emphasized: "The 'Circus of Knowledge' aims to use art to help spark an interest in science. We will talk about great researchers of the past, dance, introduce lab research with bubbles in test tubes, and paint colorful images of the future together. It will be a memorable and motivating experience! Art and science are similar in regard to the level of creativity needed to make something new. If the 'Circus of Knowledge' succeeds in inspiring the next generation, we will have won."

A Circus for Generations to Come

Berg wants his program of events at the “Circus of Knowledge” to not only appeal to the young, but also those young at heart, connecting generations and creating special family experiences. The accessible and interactive program will be designed to attract children in particular. The JKU will build on its experience with school outreach programs and the JKU Science Holidays program. Bernadette Weinreich, project manager for the JKU Science Holidays program, added: "The demand for spots in the JKU Science Holidays program is growing exponentially each year. Both the children and parents appreciate the accessibility and diverse program elements that support discovery, research, and getting active. The 'Circus of Knowledge' now gives the JKU a year-round forum for children to discover the world of science, either together with friends or with parents."

In this spirit: clear the stage for a unique theater venue that will invite people to experience the magic of knowledge and discovery.

Additional Information:

Airan Berg is a theater organizer and artistic director, having most recently organized the Upper Austrian "Festival of Regions". Before that, he was, among other things, artistic director for performing arts at Linz09 - European Capital of Culture and directed the "Theater ohne Grenzen" (together with Martina Winkel) and the Schauspielhaus Wien. His most important hands-on projects include Reinventare EUtopia in Lecce, Italy, StadtRecherche at Vienna's Burgtheater, Orfeo & Majun in Brussels, Aix-en-Provence, Rotterdam, Vienna, Krakow & Santa Maria da Feira and Floods of Fire in Adelaide, Australia. In addition, Airan Berg is co-initiator of "Hunger auf Kunst und Kultur" and has been invited to numerous conferences as keynote speaker & workshop leader.

He currently commutes between Vienna and Istanbul and is married to a physics teacher and PhD candidate for holistic education. His daughter studied Art & Science in The Hague. In this regard, art and science is a given in his family.

Designed by architects Luger and Maul, the exterior for "Circus of Knowledge" was design to look like an old dairy farm. The multifunctional wooden building can accommodate over 300 visitors. The ring - or stage – can simultaneously face inward and outward. The large sliding gate allows for the stage to be opened up and face the Schloss courtyard. Using external institute funds, Richard Hagelauer, former JKU Rector, marked his retirement from the JKU by providing the funding for the new "Circus of Knowledge".

Former Rector Richard Hagelauer:

"The 'Circus of Knowledge' gives the courtyard a whole new meaning and dimension. It will be a wonderful space to spark children’s curiosity, something that I - as a father of three - particularly appreciate. The key to help quench the children's thirst for knowledge and foster a sense of curiosity is offering age-appropriate activities and giving them an opportunity to make discoveries in a playful way. I truly hope the 'Circus of Knowledge' will become a place where many children can discover the joy of knowledge and education."