Issue 01/15
The Crackpots’ Party

ιδMag Editorial

There was a time when the good fortune of cities was struck by natural phenomena that dried up the fields and killed the livestock. Sadness dwelt in the soul of man, who, in his desperate fight against sorrow, decided to create the Crackpots’ Party, at which Mr Carnival waged war against Mrs Lent, fervour against withdrawal, transgression against observance, the fertile madness of being oneself against the desolate decisions of uniformity. Centuries have since elapsed, and today that original celebration continues to be the intangible heritage of happiness, in any of its new and infinite forms.


A long, long time ago there was a wandering traveller who roamed unknown parts with no luggage, nude. One day he met a group of fellow men in whom he recognised himself, and was invited to join them under the sole condition that he covered his skin with what they called ‘clothes’. Thus, this lonely creature became a member of something much larger called ‘community’, and learnt to hunt, farm the land, look through the eyes of others, share, seek the common good … He even fell in love and formed what they called a ‘family’. New allies were added to the clan, which grew to such an extent that the need for a structure and order led to the birth of the city and to rules that would guarantee peaceful coexistence. And then others arrived who admired its riches and wanted them for themselves, thereby creating trade and prosperity.

‘Papyrus of Nebqed,’ in Book of Dead [detail], c. 664–332 BC. musée du Louvre, Paris

The Seated Scribe [known as ‘Scriba from Louvre’], c. 2620–2500 BC. musée du Louvre, Paris

Yet one day good fortune was struck by natural phenomena that turned the fields to wasteland and killed the livestock. Grief took hold of souls, and men began to implore to heaven to bring fortune back. Shortage led to poverty, poverty led to weakness, and weakness corrupted the rules, which corrupted the man who had drawn them up, the man who had created power and consequently inequality. The dark ages began. Then, that first man, who was by then an old man, decided to call others who, like him, were outsiders to begin with and then became members of the original community. They gathered by the fire, with the sole intention of discussing how to overthrow the night of the times and return happiness to their children, their grandchildren, future generations they would never meet. They drank, they undressed body and soul and melancholically invoked children’s childhood. They spoke and spoke, and before dawn they decided to create the Crackpots’ Party. The sun rose and the conclave dispersed.

Weeks passed with little change, the oligarchies continued to amass power in the house on top of the hill and in the valley, the people collected motives for impotence. But one morning the city awoke to disturbing cries that came from the street. People watched in silence from their windows to find out what was going on and saw that the oldest members of the community wearing strange masks were running frenziedly bearing torches. The doors of the houses were opened and after a few seconds of bewilderment all the men and women, young and old, boys and girls were infected with that lunatic possession and joined the transforming rituals of mocker, guffaws and the cathartic joy of being what they wanted to be.

Gargoyles at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris

Gargoyles at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris

And the sound of the laughter was so loud that it rose to the top of the mountain where the man of power lived who, surprised, decided to descend from his golden palace escorted by his guards to smother what appeared to be a rebellion. But when they arrived there, ready to battle, the gaze of the first wandering traveller met that of the man of power. The scene was suspended in what seemed to be an eternal silence, until the former stretched out his hand to offer the man of power the only asset he had left behind during his climb: a mask of his face as a young man, the face he had before he was corrupted. The latter took the mask in his hands, looked at it and put it on, and then … began to dance madly until he discovered his own rhythm, one that had been forgotten although it lived on in his memory. The silence was broken and everyone continued to party. The soldiers threw down their weapons and shields and smeared their faces with the dirt of the ground where the helpless lived. Everyone, rich and poor, danced and sang, drank and ate, laughed at one another at the hare-brained and hilarious rituals until well into the night. This was the Crackpots’ Party.

The following morning everyone woke up and the city went back to normal: the ordinary man returned to his monotonous sadness and the man on the hill continued to amass riches and power. However, year after year, instinctively and without entreaties, the cathartic explosion of joy reigned again, on the same day and at the same time. And the neighbouring communities that had witnessed the wild festivities did the same in their own cities: the festival at which Mr Carnival waged war against Mrs Lent, poverty against riches, fervour against withdrawal, transgression against observance, sleep against wakefulness, the fertile madness of being oneself against the desolate decisions of uniformity, was born.


Pieter Brueghel ‘The Elder:’ The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, c. 1559. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Centuries have since elapsed, and despite the fact that history today is filled with infinite forms of celebration, we would like to remember that original Crackpots’ Party with the invaluable help of Sir Jonathan Mills—Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Festival from 2006 to 2014, David Binder—founder of David Binder Productions, Larry Harvey—co-founder of Burning Man, and Martyn Reed—founder and Director of Nuart Festival. To them all we extend our deepest gratitude, not only for their time but also for the inspiring words traced by celebrations and parties—in short, the intangible heritage of happiness.