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A Beacon to Connect: Red Crossing Premieres in Prague

In June 2019, Stamps professors Roland Graf and Nick Tobier teamed up with collaborator Jennifer Low (MDes ‘20) at the Prague Quadrennial to launch the world premiere of Red Crossing.

An interactive artwork funded in part by the U-M Office of Research, Red Crossing brings communities together to connect, collaborate, and catalyse. 

Funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space (PQ) is a public celebration of active performance environments, known for being an international platform for emerging and professional creative practitioners to explore contemporary performance design. Over 10,000 visitors attend each year. Red Crossing was part of the Formations section, curated by Serge von Ax and D. Chase Angier.

The concept behind Red Crossing is a simple, spectacle-loving concept: a 75-foot long, 8 foot wide red “walkway” held aloft by the collective effort of 30-60 strangers at a time grasping handles spaced 11” apart. In an exercise leveraging trust as much as engineering, pedestrians on the walkway run, stroll, and even tumble acrobatically across the length of the Red Crossing as it is held aloft several feet above the ground. Together, people connect over the experience of something entirely new and exciting. 

“Artists and designers have made contributions to diverse public spaces and events for decades,” Graf said. “Red Crossing seeks to separate participants from everyday geography and move them emotionally as well as physically.” 

“We spent four days at the Quadrennial plaza where, among other events we encountered brick builders from Estonia, a school of fish from Chile, and a Franco-Greco endurance jumping duo writing and responding to binary code,” said Low. “We were also able to make detours and surprise appearances by tramway stops and city squares in Prague. The engagement and response was incredible.”

As entertaining as this project is as a purely celebratory activity, the future applications and possibilities are expansive. Red Crossing is the first in an anticipated series of lightweight and deployable forms of public address for devising physical structures to guide the rapid organization of large assemblies of people. 

 “We really see Red Crossing as a possible tool for social movements that seek to use disruptive forms of public action for gesture or protest as part of a larger messaging strategy,” Tobier said. “It is a way to visualize much of what happens online with gatherings, blockades, and petitions in an intentionally ‘offline’ way.” 

To learn more about Red Crossing, visit the Assocreation website or EverydayPlaces https://everydayplaces.com/portfolio/red-crossing/. Assocreation is an artist collective based in Vienna (Austria) and Ann Arbor, Michigan (USA), of which Roland Graf is a founding member.