There are things, place, events which are rich of beauty, but in some case it’s a very delicate kind of beauty, which we might compare to the sumptuous wings of a butterfly, which can be drastically damaged by time and reiterate touch.
The essence and the meaning of a tradition consist in the strict temporal limits in which it must exist and in its uniqueness, which makes it indivisible from a certain specific contest.
You might consider all that as another out of fashion speech from a troglodyte cave - I have started liking this unsearched role and I think my prehistoric cave is nevertheless open over the world – but I feel like expressing in my usual wordy and messy way my confused thoughts on a place I know well and I love deeply, but I carefully try to avoid in certain time of the years.
The place is Venezia.
I prefer to call it by its Italian name, maybe because its spirit is already so often mystified by different means, so let it have at least its own name.
The case of Venezia and its so famous carnival is just an example of what happens in other places, other circumstances, or you might even consider it a metaphor, if you like metaphors.
I won’t bore you with any pedantic history of the origin of Carnival.
Everybody know that the carnival of Venezia is a very ancient tradition, which was interrupted from 1797 until 1979 (I’m not completely sure of the last date, but it’s a nearly good approximation) when he was restored by local organizations and become a quite amplified by mass media and touristic events in only a few years.
“The Carnival of Venice” had largely mutated to be “A Carnival in Venice”, with the city and its citizens playing an increasingly passive and background role for the tens, and then hundreds of thousands of tourists who showed up – more every year.
The numbers could actually be frightening—around 800,000 or even nearly a million for the entire Carnival season (now expanded to around three weeks). Venice’s resident population, meanwhile, has dropped to just about 60,000.
It has been estimated that 30,000 visitors coming to the city in one day are enough to make serious pedestrian traffic jams, and the structures of the town are not made to face such an impact.
I cannot see Venezia during such an invasion, for me Venezia is silence, echoes of the past, mystery.
The dramatic beauty, which is inexorably disappearing under the merciless pressure of time.
The beauty of Venezia is its ephemeral frailty.
Nevertheless I don’t want deny that the visual impact with a colourful army of disguised people wearing scenic costumes of bright colours can be striking and fascinating.
What leave me a little puzzled and pushes me to retract from the entry of my prehistorically cave to take shelter in the indoors shadows is thinking over of the people who are hidden behind the enigmatic masks and what connection they have with what they mean to represent.
Many of them are not Italians either and very few, unless they are asked to work there on purpose by the carnival business official organization, are venetians.
Behind these elegant and ethereal masks, under the velvet costumes, the shining laces, the soft feathers there are usually passionate middle aged people, who are members of very efficient clubs, the purpose of which is to create every year the most sumptuous costumes to parade at the carnival.
Since, probably rightly, they think that all the efforts requested to created their elaborate and magnificent outfits cannot be compensate by the limited number of days of visibility the carnival of Venezia can offer to them, they have started reproducing the venetian carnival during different times of the years in different places, which have nothing to do with Venezia.
It’s like a dizzying game of mirrors; the carnival is multiplied and reproduced, always the same, without being the same, all the time, like a recurring dream, which can dangerously look like a nightmare after a while.
Many photographers (middle aged too...) follow the masks in their migration from a reproduction of carnival of Venezia to another one, carrying their usual impressive weapon, gigantic telephoto-lenses, tripods, cameras of all sizes, they surround the masks, even pushing each others, to take always the same photos, like a tribal ritual.
The masks are not the sacrificial victims of this ordeal, or maybe they are, without realizing it, they offer themselves willingly, proudly, because appearing is what makes their being real.
I have heard very intriguing and a little surrealistic stories about the protagonists of carnival, but maybe I’ll tell you of that another time.
I prefer another Venzia anyway, even though I think everyone can choose what face of it they want to enjoy.
I spoke of the carnival of Venezia simply as representative example to express my confused feeling that iterating something beauty doesn’t make it more beautiful , but only more banal.
I remember that delightful novel by Saint-Exupéry, “ Le Petit Prince”, where the little Prince tells that he came from such a small planet that he could walk over it and see many sunsets, one after the other.
“What a lovely think to see so many sunsets or sunrises all the time!” I thought the first time I read it.
But then I told myself that after a while it would have been too banal and easy, as a consequence, a terrible boredom.