polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

In Full Swing

by Vivien Park

Playground swings have always fascinated me. Such a simple and repetitive motion contained within a mechanical structure, yet I don't think I can ever get bored with it. Childhood references aside, more importantly I think it provides me with a moment of personal freedom. Like a ritualistic chant, as I slowly adjust to the rhythm of weightlessness at either end of its trajectory, I realize I am in an internal space. The world moves back and forth around me as I become one with the swing.

The Swingsite project in Toronto was perhaps an attempt to provide an unexpected entry point to this brief moment of release. Sandwiched in a narrow alleyway between two buildings, Corwyn Lund's "Secret Swing" outlived the 2003 group show it was originally in for almost 3 years due to its popularity. If you're lucky enough to have experienced it first hand, it must be something worth remembering. Many still lament its absence to this day.

As I looked further into the swing as urban art installations, it seems like others have shared an affinity to the format. Last year, London-based Bruno Taylor installed a swing in a bus stop as a way to introduce the element of incidental play into the public space. Yes Duffy of Activist Architecture took a more active role in 2004's Memefest by installing and participating in swings anywhere suspension is available in pedestrian streets. In contrast, Mathew Geller's Awash (2006), a steel and plexiglass structure that housed 3 porch swings complete with fake rain splashing on a skylight, seem to have taken a more subdued stance while scaling up its presence with a sense of drama.

In many ways, art creates an accepted context of exploration for new ideas and experiences. By introducing art installations into public spaces, they not only redefine the space itself, but extend an invitation to the public to participate. And much like playgrounds, these installations can provide an inviting context for exploration while casually redefining the boundaries of experience and participation.

Credits: Photo from Shutterstock.