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Dreaming of Swinging



Finally Swinging

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Here we have some evidence of success. I've gotten lots of comments from people that include adjectives like "fantastic' and "amazing".
Working title is: Devices for the Aerial Investigation of Public Space
Collaborative team: Tony Carton, Daniel Dean, Meena Mangalvedhekar, Emily Stover
swings1.jpg - photo by Kara Harm
IMG_3110.MOVvid by daniel dean

Reflection and overview

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I believe that identifying and preserving a public space for metaphysical connection is a vital issue. It is essential to break the routine of malnourishing spaces and reintroduce playfulness and transforming nature of public spaces. With the layers of snow, urban area shrinks to its veins and public spaces collapse to the activities based on gravity and confined to ultra-familiar comfort and objects. It continues to be the identity of that public space. Our opportunity to install functional devices became investigative tools for the visitors. When we created a prototype with aircraft cable and flat round disc, it was a functional piece with very few controllable errors but it was missing the eternal connection, thin and gray nature of aircraft cable was a bit too dry. So we introduced fibrous rope and patterned wood with comforting and inviting curvature. While sanding and finishing rough routed wood, the only goal was to accentuate these two features. I guess the overall feel made it easier to trust our long hanging swings and everybody seems to enjoy them. We observed that participates invented many creative ways to incorporate architectural features while enjoying these swings. Jump start from steps, snacking from tables, reaching out to coffee resting on vents and conversing with friends peeking down from upper level to name a few.

When the swings occupied atrium, the space appeared much larger than we normally sensed. It became a point of fascination to revisit memories, to feel weightless and also to feel energetic. The touch of the rope was very friendly and comforting. Rope also became a mode of temporary documentation of history as it would expand with weight and shrink back to it's original position in half hour when unoccupied. After the period of installation the atrium shrunk visibly, everything that was already still appeared stiffer and heavier than ever. With swings, hammocks and party spot, casualness and alternative habitat was gone and space turned formal, all seemed to follow rules once again. It was fun to have a taste of freedom and a space that would make laptops & cellphones feel awkward and out of the place.

I think we can reflect on the success of the Devices for the Aerial Investigation of Public Space by the interactive activation of the space. The attraction to a swing is probably ubiquitos, in part because of an understanding of the framework for swinging learned during childhood. Swings allow rhythm and movement in a space, and remind us of the warm summers of our childhood and adolescence during a period of winter that seemed to drag on and on. Swinging brings its own type of interaction to an atrium space generally used for moving from outside to inside and maybe grabbing something to eat.

I wonder if there are currently too many tables and chairs. Walking around campus I notice that individuals will try to sit at their own table. I see a lot of people sitting alone at a table, even when some people are sitting on the floor or obviously waiting for a seat. I think the success of the swings involves their initial, static isolation. Their movement is activated only once someone begins to swing, so at that first moment a visitor will be welcomed with a single seat, with ample personal space. The swinging framework kicks in and as movement slowly initiates, visitors begin swinging closer and closer to other swingers, creating an interaction of rhythmic proximity and distance. Likewise, as the swinger travels through the air, they are aware of the physicality of the space. The railing moves farther away, and then nearer to the body schema on return, as one is aware of the body's interaction with a doorway, little conscious thought is required, but the door jam generally misses the shoulder. Swingers are mindful of the physical elements in the room as they jump from the highest stair aiming to touch the opposite wall.

Corner interaction
In Rules of Play, Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman discuss, among other things the definition of interaction especially as it applies to play. One of the concepts is that "playing a game means making choices within a game system designed to support actions and outcomes in meaningful ways." I think this can be extended to a public interaction, so...

public interactive art could mean being given the opportunity to make choices within a system designed to support actions and outcomes in meaningful ways.

Some background. The corner is part of a WWI memorial parkway, also part of the extensive Minneapolis green-way system, used for biking, running and walking. The neighborhood, according to the census data is generally educated to a minimum bachelor's degree, with some more advanced, especially as you get closer to the hospitol down the parkway. This affords time for recreational exercise and walking, which is obvious from the volume of trail users.

Tapping into Sam Gould's definition of public art as conversation, and the discussion of the use of recognizable frameworks, I wanted to use an understandable framework, or two, to participate in a conversation that local users would be ready to participate in.

By placing the Hi5 counter adjacent to the walking path, I hope to tap into the framework of the High 5, something that most midwestern Americans readily understand. It's an action that is tied to physical activity, athletes give each other high 5's when running, or lifting weights, or during just about any sporting activity. Additionally, when someone sees a large red button, they generally know what to do with it--push it.

The apparatus of the Hi5 is a simple, high-contrast poster of a hand, with a large red button and a counter. When the button is pressed, the counter ticks off one Hi5.



Edit 5/15

There are a few more images (formatted for a proposal I put together to make a bunch more of these)


And some Sketching


Atrium Reflections -Swings

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(aka Devices for the Aerial Investigation of Public Space)

The installation of four round swing-like objects in the atrium of Regis East gave the building's occupants a different way to explore and understand space that they use everyday. Though they were never directly described as toys to be utilized by the public, their use became an exercise in amusement, performance, distraction, and disruption.