#PlaySculptureSaturday Motu Viget Swing, Grand Rapids, MI, Mark di Suvero, 1977

All of us are children at heart—or were children and have forgotten it. The child in us can respond to the piece.” Mark di Suvero, Grand Rapids Press, 1977

Sculptor Mark di Suvero‘s bold, exploding abstract sculptures are in some 50 cities worldwide. Though massive, they move; some components can be set in motion by a firm hand or just the wind.  But for Grand Rapids, Michigan whose city motto means ‘strength through activity’, di Suvero designed one of his most playful works,  ‘Motu Viget’,  enlivened by the addition of a giant tire swing that has become a favorite of the community.

I like that the tire swing is big enough to hold a crowd (communal play!) and that it quite naturally allows increasing levels of risk-taking:  images of children on the swing typically show them seated in its interior, while teens and adults tend to stand either inside the swing or (even riskier!) on top of it.  One of di Suvero’s characteristic H-beams, set on a perfectly calibrated slant, is readily interpreted by children as a slide without shouting “playground!”…a subtle approach to playability that more public space  installations should adopt.  There is no safety surfacing underneath, which I hope never changes.  That dirt has been just fine since 1977, thankyouverymuch.

“i had a dream that i had to drive to madison
to deliver a painting for some silly reason
i took a wrong turn and ended up in michigan
paul baribeau took me to the giant tire swing
gave me a push and he started singing
i sang along while i was swinging
the sound of our voices made us forget
everything
that had ever hurt our feelings”

Kimya Dawson, “Tire Swing” song, from the movie Juno.

[maquette image from the Smithsonian, other images via grandrapidpress.  See also the kerfuffle over a di Suvero swing sculpture on NYC’s Governor’s Island that was altered because children’s play on it was ‘too exuberant’.  Because what we all want is non-exuberant play, right?  Sheesh.]

Leave a Reply