By Dr. Sarah Anne Carter, CDMC Visiting Executive Director
How would you describe your reality these days? How is it changing as more people in the United States get vaccinated and can leave their homes, as we engage with those outside our “bubbles” for more than work or necessity?
Refrangible host and CDMC Producer-in-Residence Gianofer Fields has been reflecting on the ways our community might begin to tiptoe out into the world again post-pandemic… and she has been thinking about, of all things, the maypole.
In many northern European cultures, the maypole and its attendant dances and merriment offered a collective way to celebrate the end of winter and welcome the spring warmth. Celebrated on May 1 or as part of Midsomer in June, the maypole was often danced by children, inviting a collaborative weaving as dancers held individual ribbons and built communal patterns around the poles. The celebration also initiated busy seasons of planting and anticipated autumn harvest as it honored a major community transition.
The second episode of Refrangible explores the maypole in detail, including audio from a recent COVID-aware maypole event held in collaboration with the Threads 2021: Reality? fashion show, an annual production by students of Professor Carolyn Kallenborn, the Jane Rafferty Thiele Professor in Human Ecology and coordinator of the Textiles and Fashion Design major in the School of Human Ecology. Rather than dance around a pole, participants and audience members were invited to reflect on their current realities, in keeping with the show’s theme, then write their thoughts on a two-foot length of ribbon and tie their ribbons to the pole. Taken together, these ribbons comprise a range of shared realities in one billowing sculpture.
While this maypole-inspired installation does not constitute the end of our COVID-19 winter—we know the pandemic is not over, either at home or abroad—we may still be entering a new stage of its impacts on our everyday lives. Our CDMC maypole instead invites a new period of tentative engagement, in-person gathering, and yet another set of “new normals.”
- Sandy Spieler and Dan Newman from In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
- Professor Thomas Friedrich from Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
- Professor Ann Smart Martin, Stanley and Polly Stone (Chipstone) Professor of American Decorative Arts and Material Culture in the Art History Department of the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
- Participants in the CDMC’s participatory maypole installation at UW–Threads‘ “Reality? Virtual Design and Fashion Event” on April 30th and May 1st, 2021.
Refrangible is a podcast from the Center for Design and Material Culture, hosted by the Center’s Producer-in-Residence, Gianofer Fields. Each episode explores the stuff of everyday life and what it tells us about ourselves, our world, and our values. From keepsakes to clutter, from tools to trash, the things we make, use, and save carry stories within them. Tune in for a closer look at the material traces of our past and what they might inspire for our shared future, and view all episodes here.