As mentioned in a previous post, I recently visited my hometown of Viareggio
on the Tuscan coast to participate in the local Carnival festivities. The main events
of the month long extravaganza are five parades of huge allegorical papier-maché floats
(up to twenty meters tall) and masks accompanied by musical bands along the large
beachside promenade known as "La Passeggiata". At the end of the festival, a jury awards
prizes to the best floats. Started as a local celebration in 1873, the Carnival gradually
became one of Italy's most famous. Nowadays it attracts over 1.000.000 visitors every year.
This year's winning float, the ecological Earth, the only mother by Roberto Vannucci
Detail from Stolen love by Massimo Breschi, thanks to Luciano Castro on flickr
The themes represented on floats and masks range from political satire and social
commentary to caricatures of celebrities and pure flights of fancy. This year's subjects
included Obama, a variety of Berlusconis, a Metropolis-inspired automaton, a spooky
Michael Jackson, and the monster above symbolizing violence against women.
The characters are animated by various workers hosted in their complex wooden structures.
A number of singers and dancers in costume also contribute to the floats' lively appearance.
Second place was awarded to Dance of the Dragon by Verlanti and F.lli Bonetti,
an allegory of China's rising power. I especially enjoyed the special effects: glowing eyes
(a popular feature this year) and smoke coming out of the dragon's mouth.
A group of masks that really caught my eye was Fish and Plastic by Roberto De Leo,
7 papier maché aquatic creations decorated with plastic cups, straws, cutlery,
bottles and other materials.
In recent times there's been quite a bit of experimentation with new forms, techniques
and materials. Last year my dear friends Gilbert Lebigre and Corinne Roger, a couple
of artists who moved from France to Viareggio thirty years ago to follow their passion
for papier maché, built a float featuring an awesome group of geese covered in feathers
made of plastic bags. Their latest production, inspired by Italy's growing
government-fueled anti-immigration paranoia, was also insanely great.