February 03, 2018
I believe analyzing the aesthetics of the carnival is a work of a lifetime, so what I'm trying to do here is simply pin some of the elements that really catch my attention and I would like to use in my artwork. Some elements are specific from the 80s-90s, but many are present in all carnivals.
There is always a lot of playing with scale in carnival. There are huge human heads, huge animals, even huge insects and people look very tiny on top of those parade cars. But the opposite also happens, with people looking huge on top of buildings, cities and planets.
They are everywhere. On costumes, on parade cars, as a symbol of the schools, every samba school celebrate and exalts the animals. They don't need to be necessarily part of Brazilian fauna. Although Brazilian birds are very common, it's easy to find tigers, american eagles or fantastic animals like dragons any year in any school. The representation can be realistic or more expressive, by the use of unique colors of by mixing animals with human features, resulting in a mythological creature.
A more specific and very common use of animals in carnival is the the mix of people and birds. They are everywhere, in the dances, costumes, movements and colors. It's not only a tribute to the animals, many costumes uses the real feathers of the birds. There is also a reference from our firsts nation people who used feathers as a head wear. During carnival its a common practice to dress inspired by the native traditional gear. Also, the master of ceremonies dances a choreography that reminds me of a rooster on cockfight. He jumps, turns and bends his body in very rapid movements that is similar to the rooster. Depends on the costume, some people might open and closes their arms in a simulation of a bird's flight.
One of the aspects I love about carnival is how it is presented in many layers of colors and textures. The contrast and harmony between the layers is carefully planned to create depth and complexity. Nothing is simply flat on carnival, everything is rich in texture. One thing I noticed is that usually the layers are not transparent, there is some permeability but the juxtaposition of elements is the most common used style. Until today it's a huge impact to see the front committee just in front of the opening car, at the beginning of the parade, when the instruments start to play the first notes of the samba. Even the music comes in layers, starting with the lead singer, support singers, chords and finally drums.
Couldn't find a better translation for English. It's the group of people who opens the parade. It used to be just a group of 15 men from the community who greets the audience and invite them for the party. In the 80s-90s more complex and sophisticated costumes were introduced and the presentation started to include beautiful choreography. Personally I'm very found of Imperatriz Leopoldinense openings, when Rosa Magalhães was the "carnival leader" of the school. The one with men holding hand fans in 1994 is considered one of the most beautiful openings in the history of carnival. Year after year the openings started to use more theatrical, magical and cirque elements and even includes an auxiliary car for the presentations. Personally I dislike the use of the auxiliary cars as it hides the opening car and disturbs my favourite layer transition between the front committee and the opening parade car.
There is man and woman nudity in carnival, another practice inspired by our native people in Brazil. What is more nostalgic for me is how the woman used to show themselves in the 80s-90s. The bodies were naturally well proportionate and there was something naive about their beauty. Breast implants were the exception and bodies sculpted by exercises and workouts were not common at all. Also, at that time, showing the naked body was sometimes considered a transgression and a scandal, while today the exposure of the body is common place and in some cases, just a way to achieve commercial success. When Brazil was first discovered, the Portuguese got very surprised to see how all native people walked completely naked on the land, not even feeling shy when the sailors stare at their genitals. This wild and innocent nudity fascinate the Portuguese and that specific moment in Brazilian history is celebrated until today. I'm nostalgic of this old style beauty as it brings me back to the fascination of the sailors in 1500.
Last but not least, carnival patterns add richness and texture to the parade. The repetition of some elements reinforces the message of the samba and achieve amazing plastic results. Many elements are used for this effect, and includes flags, colorful umbrellas, wings, head wear and the costumes themselves. I particularly love the baianas group, where all woman wears a specific kind of dress that honors a very traditional history of samba. Usually these are worn for older woman from the community and its one of the most respected groups in carnival.