Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Is "Official Carnival" an Oxymoron?

I recently saw the show on Carnival at the Fowler Museum, which got me thinking about how this annual celebration in Catholic countries during the period leading up to Lent might relate to the "official culture" that I usually study.

After some web-surfing, I discovered how "official carnival" exists on the web with civic sites hosted by local governments for Fasnacht in Basel and Carnaval in Recife and Olinda, where performances often have subversive political themes. I'll admit to being wary of Venice Carnival, which was revived in 1979 largely for the tourist trade. Since Hurricane Katrina, the City of New Orleans has actually put Mardi Gras up for Sale to the highest corporate bidder.

But there are also "virtual carnivals" with dances and parades and performances that take place in online communities. Recently my colleague Jenny Cool showed me the work of the dancers and performers at Gypsy Groove. Check out their amazing Cantina Crawl series! Marvel at the size of the performing cast in the Gypsy Groove credits that would rival the numbers of any Samba club.

Compared to the other seasonal site for ritual celebration and political spectacle, the 2006 Torino Winter Games, which is further canned on its dreary website, the Cantina Crawls may look considerably less staged.

Other groups appropriate official culture for subversive ends. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about captioning and street art.

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