Ragdale Ring 2022

‘Rows and Columns’ begins by building on the tradition of Charles and Ray Eames 1977 short, “Powers of Ten”, also choosing as it’s center point a similarly bucolic and grassy location on the west shore of Lake Michigan. By establishing a new polar coordinate system centered on the West Lawn of the Ragdale Campus, we propose a framework of relationality through which connections between the Ragdale Foundation and its constituents; artists, audiences, arts partners, etc., can be described, materialized, and strengthened.

Rows and Columns is a zero-sum game. Meaning, that there is only ever one complete ring. If a column is missing from the central ring, that means it exists elsewhere in another form, either as seating or peripheral stage elements. Every absence of material indexes the presence of material somewhere else. This becomes particularly relevant to the extrapolation of satellite installations, in which a very small absence on the Ragdale site may correlate with a rather large intervention somewhere in Chicago, for example, by nature of the radial deformations.

Translating from a Cartesian coordinate system to a Polar coordinate system can be seen as analogous to the translation from traditional frontal performance, which constructs a formalized separation between performers and audience with the proscenium plane, to a theater in the round, which provides a more democratized and symmetrical relation between audience members and performers. The stage set opens up a less bounded, more participatory framework for theatricality, in which stage elements become indistinguishable from audience seating, and vice versa. As visitors wander further and further afield of the Ragdale house, into the lawns and woods across the campus, they encounter a sequence of ‘stranded’ pillars and colonnades — objects and structures meant for resting on, eating on, or playing on. These secluded columns may be visually disconnected from the main performance area, but are geometrically and graphically contiguous.

The first performance of the summer will be the distribution of a publicly accessible web-based spreadsheet, in which Ragdale’s community (under the guise of their virtual avatars: anonymous squirrels, foxes, coyotes, and rabbits) will be invited to participate in a multi-day collaborative drawing exercise through which the final form and patterning of the ring will be negotiated. In this sense, Rings and Columns is less a proposal for a prescribed arrangement of objects on the lawn, and more a participatory design system through which a community may establish collective authorship over the 2022 Ring.

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