Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jesus and Dionysus

This passage describes the death of the God of Ecstasy in order to facilitate the birth of Christianity in Ancient Rome. 

‘In what as been called ‘one of the most haunting passages in Western literature,’ the Greek historian Plutarch tells the story of how passengers on a Greek merchant ship, sometime during the reign of Tiberius (14-37BCE), heard a loud cry coming from the island of Paxos. The voice instructed the ship’s pilot to call out, when he sailed past Palodes, ’ The Great God Pan is dead.’ As soon as he did so, the passengers heard, floating back to them from across the water, ‘a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many.’

‘Pan, the horned god who overlapped Dionysus as a deity of dance and ecstatic states, had to die to make room for the stately and sober Jesus. Only centuries later did Plutarch’s readers fully attend to the answering voices of lamentation and begin to grasp what was lost with the rise of monotheism. In a world without Dionysus / Pan / Bacchus / Sabazios, nature would be dead, joy would be postponed to an afterlife, and the forests would no longer ring with the sounds of pipes and flutes.’ Pg 57

Dancing in the Street: A History of Collective Joy, Babara Ehrenreich

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Savannah Spirits

Savannah Spirits
24 x 36
conte on paper

Monday, January 25, 2010

Form & Structure

A City with Two Faces is organised in four chapters. Its configuration allows the reader to consider festivals quite broadly at first, then moving toward a specific analysis of Port-of-Spain’s Carnival. In turn this allows the reader to understand Carnival from its most permanent forms toward its most evanescent. Within this structure, I have also placed four collections of images. Three of them are groups of paintings that I have completed within the past two years. The last collection is a sequence of photographs that show the individual experience of Carnival. These paintings have arisen out of a need to represent the festival experientially. Consequently, each of these pieces in some way build upon the sensual experience of Carnival in Port-of-Spain, from a very personal expression, into a more mythic idea of the festival and the city itself. The first collection is called J’ouvert which refers to the early morning festival that occurs in the dawn of Carnival Monday morning. Using conté on paper, these pieces give an impression of the more dark and primal celebration of Carnival. The second collection is called Farewell to Flesh, which is derived from the meaning of the word Carnival. These pieces focus on masquerade in the city, reflecting on the feeling of being in Port-of-Spain during Carnival. The last collection is called Last Lap. This title refers to the closing procession on Carnival Tuesday when masqueraders dance in the streets for the last time that year.

The first chapter in this thesis is called City space and Festival space. Within this chapter, I analyse the form and expression of three major international festivals in order to establish a set of parameters with which to analyse Carnival in Trinidad. The celebrations I have chosen to analyse are Il Palio in SiennaGion Matsuri in Kyoto and Las Fallas in ValenciaMy analysis of these festivals brings to light repetition of archetypal forms between folk festivals. Each festival manifests in similar and differing ways the way the current city is affected by a celebration of the city’s myths. With the example of Il Palio, the structure of the society in historic neighbourhoods is fundamental to the festival as is the square in which the race in enacted. Similarly, in the Gion Matsuri the massive wooden floats are based on events centuries before and reminiscent of neighbourhoods that no longer exist in the same way today. Las Fallas shows the incredible impact of collective celebration through its simultaneous spectacles throughout Valencia. This chapter conceptually outlines the nature of urban ephemera in order establish a way of understanding the transformative power of Carnival in Port-of-Spain.

The second chapter is called Three Stories. This chapter traces three strands of history that have led to the present manifestation of Carnival in Trinidad. The first story follows the ancient origin of Carnival from its Pagan roots, into its integration with the Catholic calendar and its emigration to the Caribbean through French colonialists. The second story follows the African tradition of religious masquerade, most specifically through West African Yoruba culture and its transition through slavery into the Caribbean. The third story reflects on the integration of Indian ideas of lila or sacred play into the current form of Carnival in TrinidadIt is necessary to trace all of these stories separately in order to understand the impact of their confluence within the Caribbean.

The third chapter, titled A City with Two Faces focuses on the permanent manifestation of Carnival in Trinidad. Here, I have used the Carnival route as a means of simultaneously looking at the Ordinary and Extraordinary faces of Port-of-Spain. By considering each neighbourhood’s year round usage next to it’s manifestation during Carnival, the spatial narrative of the festival will become more apparent. To assist in this expression, I have also included personal narrative which reflect on the reveller’s movement along the Parade Route. Finally, this chapter looks at the anatomy of Masquerade Camps and Steel Pan Yards in Port-of-Spain as permanent spaces from which the festival emerges. This chapter shows the way in which the festival has become integrated into the city fabric. It highlights the permanent infrastructure within the city which makes the festive period possible.

The final chapter is called Anatomy of the Festival. This is a largely graphic dissection of the festival. Through an analysis of photographs taken along the Parade Route, this chapter isolates the repeated elements which constitute the festival’s form. By reflection on masquerade types, audience, the movement of music and the location of government erected stands and barricades, I outline the way in which each of these phenomena transform public space. This chapter considers the small parts which make up the festival that are often overlooked.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What I've been up to

Yes, I have been missing in action for some time now. At the end of last term, I was able to put together some 100 pages of information. It's all still rough of course, but it's out there which is great. Since the beginning of the year I have been working on my Introduction. At first I thought this would be a 'do last' sort of thing, but now I understand it's importance. I wonder if I should post some of it, but since it sums up my intentions within this thesis, it might be a bit repetitive on here. That and I have yet to finish it. We'll see how it goes. 

I have done a few more pieces since last I posted. Two Acrylic and one Conte. I will post a couple pics when I take some. The paintings will be included in my thesis in 3 collections: punctuating each chapter. Each collection will have about 5 pieces. This means that I have to complete 2 more Acrylics (24 x 36). 

My hope is to finish a proper first draft by the end of February, aiming for sign off in the end of March. This is of course very optimistic. But what's life without a little optimism. 

Will update when I have something more.