Thursday, May 06, 2004

This afternoon I was following around the drummers from Loco Bloco as they strolled through the Mission. The destination was 23rd St. where a neighborhood celebration of Cinco de Mayo was in full swing. These are also the days leading up to San Francisco's Carnaval.

Carnaval here is a full parade surrounded by a loose set of smaller celebrations around the city. It still is the form of a spectacle instead of the immersive sense of Carnival. The latter is not just for spectators but is instead a suspended time in which the participants become actors and the rules of social order are disfigured or suspended. Burning Man may be one of Carnivals truer modern descendants.

The grand theorist of the Carnivalesque is Mikhail Bakhtin. In Rabelais and his world he develops the fullest conception of the carnivalesque, the beautiful and the grotesque:

"In fact, carnival does not know footlights, in the sense that it does not acknowledge any distinction between actors and spectators.... Carnival is not a spectacle seen by the people; they live in it, and everyone participates because its very idea embraces all the people. While carnival lasts, there is no other life outside it. During carnival time life is subject only to its laws, that is, the laws of its own freedom. It has a universal spirit; it is a special condition of the entire world, of the world's revival and renewal, in which all take part. Such is the essence of carnival, vividly felt by all its participants.... The tradition of the Saturnalias remained unbroken and alive in the medieval carnival, which expressed this universal renewal"

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