Rite of Spring: Micro-Societies at Festifools

Nearly two hundred A&D students are giving shape to this year’s edition of Festifools, an enormous public procession/public spectacle that takes over Ann Arbor's Main Street on the first Sunday of each April.

Since the first Festifools parade in 2007, an ever-growing audience (upwards of 5,000) has filled the sidewalks to witness the arrival of each year’s 14-foot tall giants.

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There’s a story behind each puppet made here at Stamps.

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Every year, the production begins as an individual research challenge. Students in Art and Design Perspectives II select an extraordinary everyday object to observe. They begin with a formal analysis of every visible detail of their chosen object (for example, a fountain pen, an eraser, a Nissan 2500cc motorcycle) and then move on to an in-depth examination of the object’s function, connotation and cultural associations.

The students develop a thesis around their objects and then form groups, micro-societies based around a synthesis of their objects, complete with a unique value system and a single figure head.

For example, one group found a common thread within these group of objects: a push up bra, lipstick, Doc Martins, a Cinderella figurine and a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil. By looking at both physical attributes of their object and their cultural/ historical contexts, they realized there was a gender theme among their objects. They decided on a giant female praying mantis as their figure head: the mantis is known to devour her mate during sex.

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Fueled by a group manifesto, the microsocieties will hoist their figure heads high on Sunday, marching down Main Street while a drum corps of grad students and friends keeps tempo on 5 gallon bucket drums.

Photo by John Baird. Click to view larger image.

Since we initiated this event along with Mark Tucker of Lloyd Hall Scholars, Festifools has emerged as a rite of spring for the students, the University and the City of Ann Arbor. We’ve been ably assisted each year in the process by Processional Arts Workshop (Alex Kahn + Sophia Micahelles), the New York-based architects behind the Village Halloween parade's giant puppets.

Photos by John Baird. Click to view larger images.

This year, the praying mantis will make her way down the same street where map-reading yaks, tourist geishas, giant sloths and drunken unikorns (with a "k", yes) once roamed.

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The puppets, whose alumni-builder ranks now include Pentagram designers, NYC Teaching Fellows, Peace Corps volunteers, painters, sculptors, chefs and med students, have been surprise guests at three commencement celebrations, including President Obama's 2010 Big House address.

Join us for the Festi-vities, this Sunday, April 7th - more information at festifools.org.



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