SUBCASE – the punk showcase that cares

SUBCASE is a Nordic showcase for contemporary circus in Stockholm. WILDTOPIA is on a quest: How to create a flow in international touring/collaborations? The performing art markets around the world play an essential role in the international circuit of performing art. Therefore we’re interviewing a row of directors at remarkable art fairs – and sharing the inspiring insights with you on this blog. Meet Kiki Muukkonen – Artistic Programming Director at SUBCASE.

“SUBCASE is a meeting place, a platform for development and a market – in that order. It’s clearly a market, but it is not only a market. A platform for me is a place where you head OFF from, to somewhere.”
Kiki Muukkonen – Artistic Programming Director, SUBCASE


WILDTOPIA’s Karen Toftegaard meets Artistic Programming Director of Subcase, Kiki Muukkonen (left) and Head of Production Helena Halling in a quiet nook at CINARS in Montréal, November 2018. They share their thoughts about and visions for SUBCASE. The next edition will be 11. – 15. February 2019.


SUBCASE has a very special atmosphere

The first time I, Karen, visited SUBCASE was in November 2017 [“the so called sauna year – as there was a sauna”]. It was obvious from the very minute I arrived that they wanted me to feel at home and really meet other people in a relaxed atmosphere – not labeled as presenters, exhibitors and observers. I felt taken care of in several levels. One of the explicit themes at SUBCASE was to level out the power gap between presenters and artists as that affects the atmosphere and creates awkward situations. Instead the SUBCASE team has set another agenda.

“We want to put a lot of effort and thought into how people meet in a good way. In 2017 we put an effort into how people can rest in a good way and included a relaxation space with sleeping tent, sauna and outdoor hot tub – because the rest and the good meetings go together. If you’re too exhausted you can’t really meet people – you can’t listen to what people are saying. Now people have begun to expect that this is the SUBCASE way of doing a showcase, so we don’t have to do as much as we have done earlier,” Kiki explains.

“In 2017 we collaborated with artistic consultants. The reason why we had artistic consultants came from a really radical idea, which was to literally give SUBCASE away to the artists. However the artists we spoke with actually didn’t like the idea at all. They said they preferred that we organized it.” So we boiled the idea down to three artist who were paid to consult SUBCASE. The self-organizing attempt was released in the festival CirkusMania. It became the festival.”

“FUCK ART MAKE BABIES” and “FUCK ART LET’S DANCE” are two memorable tote bag memes in the performing arts field. Both stating the energetic and playful energy of SUBCASE (Suptopia).

CircusMania – new circus festival in town

When the showcase appears in February 2019 for the first time SUBCASE will include the self-organized festival CirkusMania which is happening simultaneously. This festival is not curated by SUBCASE but made by the venues and the artists. “We have supported this first edition of the festival but we hope that in time it will be more self-organized – out of our control.”

Self-organized – it’s about democracy and engagement

“Why is it important that it is self-organized?” I ask. Kiki has her own way of smiling and then she takes her time to answer kindly: “It’s a showcase… Sorry I’m really tired in my brain.” And jetlag does play a significant role in international arts markets as it gathers people from all over the world (from different time zones) – placing them in the same city, same spot at the same time. That’s why it makes so much sense to includw spaces and time for rest in the design of a showcase. After all of us laughing Kiki continues her sentence: “At this point we don’t have the ressources to programme a festival. We would not be able to make a festival without the collaboration with other venues that make the programming. But it is actually not the main reason – it is more about the democracy and the engagement aspect.”

Handling “The randomness of who is in and who is not”

The idea of a self-organized festival is so connected to the SUBCASE. There is a selection. Each year 60 artists apply to SUBCASE and about 14-15 are selected. We never agree in the selection committee. We always have different ideas so in a way it is quite random who is in and who is not. And every year everyone in the committee is more or less unhappy with the selection because they do not agree with the complete selection. Some of the shows I really want in are not in and some of the shows that I really don’t want in are in the programme.” “Then you have to make another committee,” I comment laughing. “No, no it is good. It is exactly how it should be. The randomness of who is in and who is not is part of the showcase conditions. The festival CirkusMania is a way to be presented without being chosen,” Kiki reassures.

“Don’t be uptight and give away your ownership”

In February 2019 a part of SUBCASE will also be self-organized. This edition of SUBCASE has made an Open Call for seminars.  “That is also a way for people to feel more engaged and more relaxed. And then it’s also about us not being so uptight,” Kiki adds with a smile.

The creation of a new festival means raising and joining forces. More people need to be engaged if the festival and SUBCASE should become a concern for everybody. “For people to become engaged you have to give away your ownership. I don’t really believe in this idea of one sole artistic director programming everything. It is not the best practice of doing this thing anyway. This really requires the engagement of several people, so they have a reason to invite people. They have a reason to put a bit of their soul into it. They feel co-responsible. But it’s quite tricky to make that happen.”


Kiki: “What I like most is the time before SUBCASE and the time after SUBCASE – I like the feeling of succeeding with making things happen. Being an introvert at heart means that the SUBCASE days, when we host so many people, are quite stressful for me on a personal level.

Helena: “I had one moment last time which I thought was super nice. I was just standing watching people with their headphones on, dancing the silent disco [ed. Silent disco is…] Because I got the feeling that this is really flying.”

“Yes that was great,” Kiki adds. “I simply loved the silent disco,” I join the choir while my tired body wakes up, ready to instantly do the silent disco all over again.

SUBCASE – next edition 11. – 15. February 2019

Looking forward to being part of SUBCASE 2019 (February 11-15), where WILDTOPIA will be scouting for works and collaborators– as well as sharing stories about the shows we are fans of whenever relevant.

P.S.: Please note the Danish company DON GNU is playing HUMAN IN BALANCE at SUBCASE.


• SUBCASE SUBTOPIA CIRCUS FAIR is a  a showcase of Nordic contemporary circus produced by Subtopia in cooperation with Nordic, European and Swedish partners.
• Showcase with 14-15 selected circus shows from the Nordic countries
• 2019 – first edition of the festival CirkusMania co-existing with SUBCASE
• Developing and introducing different formats to initiate constructive, creative and relaxed meetings between people in the performing arts industry
For more info:

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