religion feat. fantasy

Feathers, sequins, glitter, crystals, mirrors, glow, jewellery, beads… Carnival celebration in Tenerife (Spanish Canary Islands) aims to be soon blessed with the intangible cultural heritage recognition from UNESCO. It is a practice, which finds its climax with the annual election of the Queen. The gala consists of a catwalk of aspirants showing off a specifically designed costume for the occasion. The larger, the better. The shiniest, the most successful. The most exaggerated, the most celebrated.

The evolution of such dresses runs faster than an arms race or even the Moon race: an open-ended process of wearable engineering development, with secrets, espionage and rivalries. Costumes range between 200–500 kilos weight and are to be carried by a young model on stage. Months of hard training of back and legs muscles precede the event; but also a whole backup of adapting 10 cm high-heels to such a load. This display of sumptuous flair has also made the costumes grow to no less than 4 m wide, 4 m long or even 6 m high. Teams behind their realisation deal with astronomic figures, ranging from 12,000-60,000 euros per costume, around 6 months of intense handcraft dedication and spontaneous structural inventions, such as reusing air/con pipes to support the whole fantasy.

Sam Jacob smartly related a few years ago the Popemobile to a motorised version of the Popes throne, a vehicular extension of the Papal robes, and even a detachable piece of the Vatican. A futuristic Archigram-esque moving architecture, which updates itself in every country visited, by means of design collaboration with a local automobile trademark (a weird kind of vernacularism).

Carnival Queen’s iridescent costumes can also be regarded as detachable pieces of architecture celebrating the farewell to meat: a female body pulling a sculptural building; she lives for and in it. Almost like a precious golden cage that she enjoys wearing. Dressmakers in Tenerife have lately required the need of hidden small wheels camouflaged by feathers, in order to facilitate Queen aspirants to perform their annual show (another McGiver’s trick).

Different versions of the Popemobile alike, these costumes  theoretically should also anticipate a period of religious conversion with their parade. If the Pope extends Church as an institution along his march, the Carnival Goddess celebrates worldly pleasures and excess as far as possible. But the following 40 days of fast and abstinence, which religion has traditionally imposed, seem to be eventually left aside.

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