The festive season of the Carnival is one that is celebrated in many regions and countries around the world in multitudes of different guises. The Carnival is usually held in predominantly Catholic areas, spreading throughout most of Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Although the celebrations differ in aesthetics and motive, the festivities typically involve a public celebration or parade, drawing from elements of circus, masquerade, and street party; united in the meaning of overturning daily life.
One of the most famous examples of the Carnival, which has visually always been one of the most recognisable is that of the Venetian Carnival, originally recorded in 1268. Italy’s laws over the past several centuries attempting to restrict festivities and the donning of masks has always been at the forefront of the subversive nature of the festival. This is yet another example of the Carnival’s purpose for everyday people to overturn daily life and a rebellion of the hierarchical order of power; done so through the medium of spectacle. The month-long Carnival of Viareggio is one of the most renowned in Europe, and is known for its parade of floats and masks caricaturing popular figures.
When applying the means and practice of the Carnival to contemporary issues and modern ways of living, we can see that there are many subtle similarities that we in everyday life may have unconsciously taken from the Carnival. For example, the 2011 London riots showed a crowd of rioters donning hoodies and balaclavas in order to conceal their identity from the ruling masses. Although the riots quickly escalated into looting and violence, it could be argued that it showed the power of the people against the power from the ‘top’ and put the ones in power in a very vulnerable position; keeping them in check. A link could be drawn here between the rioters concealing their identity as they participate in an action that overturned daily life and the practice of masquerading in the Carnival. The very point of the masquerade is to conceal your identity from those around you (although this is done for a more quirky and comical purpose than that of violence or rioting) but on face value the concept is exactly the same. In fact there have been examples of masquerading to perpetrate violence that has been adopted from the graphic novel and subsequent film of Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta; taking the Guy Faulks mask as a symbol of liberation, justice and anarchy. This guise has also been adopted by the organisation known as Anonymous.
Moving to e-media, it could be argued that we ourselves undertake a form of masquerading every day with our internet profiles such as Facebook. We carefully choose, create and manipulate our own identity in order to construe a certain image of ourselves to other people. More often than not, how we convey ourselves online is very different to how we do so in real life interactions when we are not concealed behind a computer screen. We choose our display pictures and have the freedom to delete pictures of ourselves that do not meet our standard of our image; creating a false reality for our own identity; a form of masquerade. We overturn daily life in this regard by breaking away from our true everyday selves and instigate a sense of self-regulation and disciplinary power, to draw from Michel Foucault’s theories on power. The spectacle in this instance is ourselves. We become the fabricated and false representations in order to appease other people’s perception of us. This image of self-censuring is a profound example of the power we have over ourselves and that around us. The Carnival serves as a means for us to, in the form of spectacle, to break away from normality and create a new reality; if only for just a short period.