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Acrophobia: The Fear of Falling


Synopsis

Acrophobia is an autobiographical research project exploring an acrobat’s complex

relationship with fear. I will study myself as the acrobat in question, interview other circus and non-circus people, and collect data to write a report. I aim make a full-length documentary in the near future using the discoveries and insights that I find.Through this research, I hope to unpack many of the fears that restrict, identify and ultimately drive acrobats to do what they do for public enjoyment.


Questions to Explore

Why does a person fly at 20 m in the air? What makes someone a thrill seeker? What are they afraid of more than pain, injury and possible death?

How does this reflect our core fears as humans? How do these fears manifest in greater scales in society?



Process

There are professional psychological research tools that are used to assess fear of pain,

anxiety around operations and fear of going back to work. Typical ones are the Pain Anxiety Symptoms Scale (PASS) and the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire (FABQ).

I wish to model these questionnaires and create my own survey called the Fear of Acrobatic Risk

Questionnaire (FARQ). This questionnaire will be used to create qualitative comparisons of the fear I experience while engaging in a wide variety of different activities.


Some of the activities that I will measure will be; jumping from heights, performing a show on the street, trying a new circus trick, reading climate change news, public speaking in German, watching a student try a trick for the first time, taking a 9-5 job, and calling a presenter to sell a show. These activities are purposefully eclectic in order to gather a wider range of data and uncover the more obscure sources of fear and anxiety in acrobats.


In addition, I will conduct comparative interviews with other acrobats, stunt people & free runners to assess their relationship to fear when engaging in dangerous activities.

An example interview format for an acrobat would be;1. Do you still get nervous before shows or dangerous tricks? 2. Are you scared by the risks you take for your living?3. What aspects/ tricks/ disciplines scare you the most?4. What motivates you to do it anyway?5. Are you afraid of pain? Do you like some kinds of pain?6. What are you afraid of more than pain or injury?7. What would you want to do if you didn’t do this for a living? 8. What stops you from perusing this direction?


As a comparison, this could be an interview format for non-physical extremists.

1. Do you get nervous before you go to work?

2. Do you think going to work is dangerous these days?

3. What aspects worry you about going to work?

4. What makes you get up and go to work anyway?

5. Are you afraid of pain? Do you Like it? (Even mental exhaustion.)

6. What are you afraid of more than pain and discomfort?

7. What would you like to do if you didn’t do this for a living?

8. What stops you from perusing this direction?


Future DevelopmentI would ultimately like to use this research to create a documentary film called

ACROPHOBIA. It will be an exploration into the true fears of an acrobat living in uncertain times. The film would follow myself as I take physical risks, search for gigs, try to keep my family fed and maybe even take ‘normal jobs’ in order to survive.I have collaborators in the German film and stunt industry who are interested in creating this with me and could help me to present this documentary for film and arts festivals in Germany. These include Rainer Werner, Matthias Schendel and Lasse Butchhop.


Relevance

The world has gone through a massive paradigm shift due to Covid and the apex of the

capitalist expansion. Studies show that people are more anxious than they ever have been before. These anxieties are varied, and I believe they are growing as mental health issues skyrocket and governments impose more sophisticated fear tactics on their people.It seems we just keep finding more fears that cripple our activism and leave us feeling helpless.


I believe that in order to conquer your fears, you must understand them and their origins. This project is about digging at the core fears that govern one’s life and one’s decisions. I wish to explore and document this unearthing, firstly through myself and then in comparison with others, in order to discover what fears are truly universal and how we can recognize them.

I see acrobatics as a wonderful key and a powerful metaphor to both explore and exemplify this topic.

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