Roundabout is a site for communing and for experiencing the world through movement, play, laughter, and action. It is a site which transforms the seemingly mundane in an inversion of hierarchies, bringing us into a world that is out of the ordinary, perhaps seemingly upside down.
The trope of “a world upside down,” and its variations (a “world inside out” or a “second life”), has been used to describe the rich framework of Medieval carnivals and festivals. This terminology is borrowed from the likes of cultural critic Mikhail Bakhtin and historian Edward Muir who theorised that the purpose of such festivity was to act as a “release valve,” sanctioning intervals of time and space for people to let go of the pressures and stresses of daily life. In this “second life” where normal social orders are suspended, participants are “reborn” and free to commune in new ways. “Release” occurs through rituals involving comedy, parody, indulgence, play, and the inversion of traditional order, which together encompass elements of the carnivalesque. Carnival thus becomes a mode of thinking about and understanding the world, and the carnivalesque its vocabulary.
In the midst of a global pandemic and the attempts to contain it which have restricted life as we had known it, release and rebirth feels imminent and necessary. Figuring the exhibition space as a site for re-imagining the world through carnivalesque strategies and imagery, the artworks presented here enable us not only to enter a sanctioned space of inversion but also to carry on with a language of ritual and play that can be employed outside of its walls. The young women in this exhibition tackle the world around them with a ferocious wit, critical eye, and regenerative power.
Edward Muir, Ritual in Early Modern Europe, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 98.