Swinging on a giant 3-person swing suspended from the ceiling of the monumental Turbine Hall, whilst a huge silver ball flies backwards and forwards above the sweeping entrance, is not a normal occurrence on a Monday morning. However, I can’t think of a better way to start the week than by indulging my inner child in a giant contemporary art playground described at a press conference by Tate Modern’s Head of Exhibitions Achim Borchardt-Hume as: “I think possibly the most intelligent piece of fun I’ve seen for a long time.”
This uncharacteristically therapeutic start to the week arose from the genius new installation created by Danish art collective SUPERFLEX, which was unveiled at Tate Modern today. “One Two Three Swing” is the third Hyundai commission in a series of ground-breaking contemporary art installations confirmed until 2025, and designed to change how art is experienced. SUPERFLEX’s Rasmus Nielsen explained: “We wanted to make an urban playground space.”
SUPERFLEX has succeeded in creating a completely captivating, child-like installation with a more serious underlying meaning. In a world of terror attacks with America reeling from a deadly shooting in Las Vegas, street battles in Catalonia, wars and the mass global migration that results from war, we as a species are increasingly on edge and suspicious of our neighbours. “One Two Three Swing” brings a refreshing feeling of Scandinavian benevolence to the hallowed halls of Tate’s Turbine Hall, where the installation is sure to bring a sense of collective togetherness that might go a little way to restoring our faith in humanity.
SUPERFLEX is best known for playfully subversive installations and films. Founded by artists Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, Jakob Fenger and Rasmus Nielsen, SUPERFLEX creates engaging, often humorous perspectives on contemporary social and cultural issues. Pushing the boundaries of the traditional exhibition space, SUPERFLEX has embraced the opportunity to make an installation in the Turbine Hall, which invites people to engage with it, and each other.
Since its opening in 2000, Tate Modern has been establishing a relationship with the local community, and many memorable Turbine Hall commissions have proved popular with the public, notably Olafur Eliasson’s “The Weather Project” (2003), a vast apparition of the sun whose artificial rays were enjoyed by visitors of all ages and nationalities, and Carsten Holler’s giant slide “Test Site” (2006), which had a queue grown adults revisiting their childhoods in the name of art.
“One Two Three swing” follows in that tradition of encouraging interaction by visitors, with a collection of huge 3-person swings giving the possibility of engaging with people on different levels, and sitting next to someone you might not usually interact with. The installation is a logical progression from SUPERFLEX’s 2011 artwork Superkilen, a major public park project in one of Copenhagen’s most diverse neighbourhoods, which encouraged people from all walks of life to sit next to each other.
Bjornstjerne Christiansen of SUPERFLEX said: “We discovered that the Turbine Hall was originally a street. Thinking about Turbine Hall as part of the urban landscape. People already treat it like a square or open space, that was our motivation.”
A giant silver ball suspended from the ceiling flies backwards and forwards above the vast expanse of the Turbine Hall’s entrance, above a multi coloured carpet. People can lie on the comfortable carpet and see their reflection in the ball as it whizzes above their heads. The ball represents apathy, and the antidote to apathy is collective movement, hence the inclusion of the swings which are collaborative. Or the more active visitors can sit on the swings and contemplate life. At the far side of the Turbine Hall is the third component of the installation, a mini swing factory representing production.
Rasmus Nielsen of SUPERFLEX explains: “The pendulum swinging above the entrance of the Turbine Hall represents a state of apathy. The carpet is created with the colours extracted from the British pound. The pendulum reflects the movement of the planet and is affected by the gravity of the people on the swings. Who are the movers and the shakers in the world. It’s as if we are a little bit hypnotised by capitalism.”
As I left the Turbine Hall, a small child ran under the barriers and lay down on the stripy carpet, totally fearless as the giant silver ball swung above her head. An example of fearless innocence that we could all take some inspiration from in these troubled times.
SUPERFLEX “One Two Three Swing” is at Tate Modern from 3 October to 2 April 2018.