Tuesday, 3 February 2009
After Hurricane Katrina the Mardi Gras was nearly cancelled, but the need for the human spirit to survive through celebration and creativity was considered even more prescient that year. Mardi Gras is always a chance to be playful with identity through costumes and performance. Historically this and other Carnivalesque events were opportunities to subvert and reverse power structures through satire, and after the Hurricane there was felt to be much to satirise in the inadequacies and neglect of the Bush Administration. Above the images are of both survival and death. The blue roof tarpaulin for the survivors, and the maggots who invaded the dead. Black humour as healing and protest. See here for other costumes.
This tradition of carnival/festival/fiesta/parade often involves the form of grotesque body or grotesques to lampoon, and celebrate fundamental corporeal functions/pleasures to shock in an effort to overturn repressive social hierarchy, if only for a day.
François Rabelais's 'The life of Gargantua and Pantagruel', illustrated by François Desprez, displays the grotesque body to fascinating and surreal effect, and was a trailblazing satirical examination of the political, social and philosophical issues of the times (mid 1500's). See some examples below and further lurid examples here
See an exhibition of contemporary grotesques at Concrete Hermit this month