Carnevale: Traditional or Contemporary?

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 10.59.20 AMEvery year, right before of Lent, Italy celebrates Carnevale. The festivals feature masks, parades, confetti, and people relaxing in anticipation of the forty days of reflection and “moderation” before Easter. This year, many NYU Florence students went to one of the most popular Carnevale destinations, Viareggio. There, we saw the floats which the citizens craft year round for a grand parade of political satire and multicultural celebration. The Carnevale of Viareggio started in 1873 and has been an ongoing tradition ever since. However, the floats’ commentaries on the state of affairs today seem to align with the purpose of contemporary art. One of the most striking floats from this years parade depicted the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, giving birth to many baby Matteo Renzi’s as euros dance around her. The float is simply a moving sculpture commenting on the function of the EU in the Italian economy and the belief that Germany is in control. The parade also featured floats about global warming, failed reform, gay marriage, and government corruption. These are modern, prevalent issues and they make the floats contemporary art. However, venturing inside the constructions is an immediate reminder that Carnevale is still traditional. Volunteers pull the strings and the levers inside every float. Everything but the tractors pulling the floats is manpowered. It is a tradition of contemporary art, reflecting on the present but preserving the past. Viareggio preserves the relevance of their tradition because the floats are remade and versatile. Every year and every carnevale has a different story and a different critical perspective on the present.