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CAR-NI-VAL

From the latin "caro" = flesh + "levare"= to solace, to lighten solace of the body permitted before any fast.

It is said that if you ask a fish about water it cannot speak. As it is with the cultural waters we swim in. Only when the law of manner and etiquette are broken, when the social convention is transgressed can we see it’s shape. Thus it is with the Carnival. The "official" order cracks and for a moment the shadow life engulfs us as the tide of nature floods the civilized manner.

It is the sanctioned inversion of the social order the day when man becomes woman, low is held high , the fool becomes king and death comes to life. More than this the Carnival calls out our animal beings as the straight-laced girdle of official etiquette is loosened and the grotesque body is revealed. The term grotesque derives from "grotto" meaning cave. It is the figure of the cave art of our ancient family. The oldest of our closet skeletons, that animal past we’d rather not remember.

 
 

" The artistic logic of the grotesque image ignores the closed smooth and impenetrable surface of the body and maintains only its excrescences (sprouts, buds) and orifices, only that which leads beyond the body’s limited space or into the body’s depths." (Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination)

The grotesque and the carnival moment that releases it celebrates our fear and reminds of our fleshy organic origins. We are momentarily re-united with our pre-christian cultural history. All that official culture suppresses is allowed license and both the social and the flesh body are liberated. Like the Mayan figure of death said to live on our shoulder reminding us of our fate. The Carnival reminds us of our bloody births, our decaying flesh , our impending death and the perfect messy cycle of regeneration.

—Steven Hill