What Playgrounds can Learn from Swings as Art Installations, Part 2

4.  Make swinging a rich experience.    That’s really why so many people went to the Ann Hamilton Event of a Thread; not just to swing, but to swing in the middle of an art piece–illuminated in a patch of light, underneath a billowing cloud of fabric.  So think of how you might add a layer of additional experience to your playground swing:.

WATER—perhaps just a summertime mist rather than the deluge of the Waterfall Swing, but I’d like to see some more integration of water and swinging (I know, I can hear the safety police coming now).

SOUND: The  Swing-set-drum-kit by visual artist Dave Ford  might be too raucous for a permanent installation (though great for a festival), but the bell-like tones of 21 balancoires are melodious enough not to annoy the neighbors.   The bottom of the swings are also lit, forming beautiful arcs at night.  The original 21 balancoires installation in Montreal was wildly successful, so  daily tous les jours  created a more portable project; The Swings (video below), with a greater variety of tones and a greater emphasis on night-lighting.

MOTION:  Swinging can be easily transferred to other forms of motion (like the waving banners of Swing-it), or with a bit more difficulty translated to other forms of energy (like the electricity of Moradavaga’s Swing), or simply detected.  Particular Heights by Paul Theriault and Siebren Versteeg ‘counts’ each swing above a certain height.  The count is shown on a counter attached to the swing, but it also forms part of a gallery show in which a webcam captured snapshot of the swinger in flight becomes part of a looping stop motion visual.   See also the Laughing Swing previously featured on Playscapes, which generates sounds of laughter relative to the height of the swinger’s arc.

LIGHT: At Nuit Blanche NYC 2011, Amanda Long’s Bring to Light  generated multi-colored projections of swingers onto a wall in front of them.  And creative technologist Phil Reyneri proposes a combination of both motion and light effects, in which “Participants on the swings will look up to see massive columns of light sweeping through the night sky; each set of beams acting as a visual extension of an individual’s motion. Encoder data will drive game logic, encouraging users to “unlock” brightness and color patterns by swinging in sync. Participants are rewarded with more complex and spectacular light shows the more they work together.”  I really hope it gets built.

That brings us to 5.  Make swinging a communal experience.   Many of these installations are richly communal; bringing a variety of users together in a single space.  Playgrounds should learn from that.   Look at the faces on participants of the swings in series at Swing Hall Swing All, by keetra dean dixon.   Not the same if you’re alone.  The one swing art installation I didn’t like was Jacques Rival’s Bird Cage swing in London, where the swinger swings lonely in a cage.  I much prefer Silence, by Lea Lim.  I’m sure there is some safety regulation against hanging so many swings together, but noone can move very much, so really, where’s the harm?  Swings are best in community.

I started this blog with the thought that playgrounds should be better.  Swings should be better, too, so let’s get busy.   If you build an amazing, innovative swing, get in touch.



The Swings: An Exercise in Musical Cooperation from Daily tous les jours on Vimeo.

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