Why Carnival? Why Now?

Paracarnival, Canning Town

In order to adapt to the modern world and for people to take control of the environment around us, which is amassed by built creations, images and ideologies around us. Our art or more accurately our creations as citizens must take an interdisiplinary approach. To take back what our societies have taken from us we must also adapt an approach that touches all the senses that incorporate play and that looks upon everyday life with the notion that we can reassemble, refit and recreate it. This is innately possible as people have the ability to create and the freedom to do so no matter what talent people have.

The streets and public space have been robbed from us as citizens but it is within our imaginations and within art that we can recreate and play with it. There is an ideology within the consumer society we live in, an idea that we cannot create better than a lot of things we can pay for. Although it is true that a team of researchers and financial investment can create more than a singular person, this idea of buying something takes the control, imagination and individuality away from the citizen and away from the human. So I ask these questions: what is the point in living a life that you lose artistic control within; and how do we recreate control and connection to displace consumer and anti-community ideology that is advertised around us constantly? This even includes media that puts more effort into putting people at fault and avoiding connections with people, instead of positively creating community.

There are places where action needs to happen in order to recreate spaces these are:

1. Public spaces, where they should be recreated to fit the needs of the communal society

2. The mind where play and creation should take more precedence compared to those of consumerist advertising.

There are two urban art forms that have been fundamental to rethinking the city and toying with our perception of everyday life. One is street visual art in particular graffiti as it creates a different understanding of the city, rethinking which places you can create a visual impact. Especially in prohibited areas where the artist can reclaim space, finding new ways to rewrite the city. Also parkour/free-running, a movement form created in urban areas in Paris, which explores the idea of movement form within urban areas reforming our relation with out bodies and the city turning urban areas into playgrounds. Both of these forms engage in how people see the potential of themselves and the city in relation to each other. They also fundamentally make the citizens and everyday people the audience for their work, dismantling this separation between citizens and audience and giving power to citizens to think about their artistic imprint within the city. You may argue that this does not fall into the realm of theatre and of art. Peter Brook argues that theater can be made with one person moving through an empty space and one other person watching. In the case for visual art you just need the object and one person to look upon it. The issue that we face is that art and performance then becomes so segmented and separated from life that it begins to lose viability, especially at an age where celebrity and icon is so large that less thought is given to local and community creation.

One of the separations within theatre and music to other forms is that they aim to lead an audience collectively through an experience or a story, although art can do this as well there is something about bodies in space that gives a human connection, which tells another side of the story as it were. One that says that these performances are possible because of the connections we have to each other as people. One that says as a community we can create anything whether it is a piece that is created by children with apt and supple minds or adults with years and experience behind them. One of the most important things is that it happens in real life for everyone to have a part in it. One of the issues and one of the things that brought me to carnival is that individualism and our perceived lack of control within the city is one that can be overturned by performing and building art within it. If you can change the mindset of an audience member into one as a participator as well then they have the ability to embody the performance more as well. You could see music and theatre as different in this sense where embodiment is more likely to happen if there is music to dance to, and within theatre you are likely to have a stronger sense of story. Costumes will have a similar effect.

Play is fundamental in the art of rethinking and regaining control of our environment. It is powerful but as the outcome of play is random it is becomes problematic in adults where so much is geared around planning and success. While play is seen as the ability to explore the world, to learn, to keep your brain active and engaged, adult life looses this which disengages their connection to everyday life. In creating, performing and sharing our ideas on the street we also open up people to do the same.

Carnival has the ability to address a lot of the issues I have portrayed here. However it is in itself an art form and for work to be current it also needs to be adaptable to the times around it. It does however have some positives: it is performed in public spaces, it has elements of play both with costumes and with performance. It is also an interdisciplinary form which can draw upon dance, music, costume, theatre, puppetry and technology. It also empowers the audience as they become participators giving their energy to the event. In creating carnival the process is very communal engaging a large range of people in order to create the event drawing on the strength of communities and pushing them more forward. Carnival has it’s issues too, it is an experience to be lived, and in this sense is more temporal than visual art which can be relived more easily through photographs and the majority of street art will last longer than the set among of hours you may find a carnival parade.