The Art of Swinging

Posted on 8th September 2016


I have a very clear memory of the first time I recognised the near-overwhelming internal gut-tickle induced by a high-flying swing.  It was in the little neighbourhood playground just across the road from our house.  I remember swinging outward, toward the rooftops.  And then that thrilling surge of oh-my-goodness intensity followed by yes-yes-yes, I want more.  Laughing and reckless, I felt like I could kick the sky.  My dad was the pusher and I loved the drug.

'Higher, higher!'

The oft-repeated chorus that every parent knows too well…   

The thing about swinging, the thing I understand now (30-odd years later), is that it wasn’t just the physiological thrill that captured me.  A swing represents possibility.  Sure, it may seem like there’s only a limited range of experience that swinging can bring.  After all, a swing is a stationary plaything, right?  Perhaps.  But all that swooping forwards and backwards creates a repeated pattern of heightened tension.  You sit down and push your feet off the ground. Backward, forward, backward, forward.  Going higher, the air rushes across your face.  Backward, forward, backward, forward.  And each time you swing outward, for one perfect moment, you’re poised like a pendulum suspended on the verge - are you flying or are you falling?

It’s the same delicious tension – the possibility and the unknown – that reveals itself in interesting art, film and performance.  Pleasurable displacement.  And it’s addictive.  Swinging as a natural high.  Makes me think that the world just might be a little bit better if we all regularly took time to have a good swing. 

A VALE, installed at University College London during the Festival of Culture (May 2016)
Images: Anna Brownsted

Anna is based in Cambridge. She uses installation, immersion and encounter to explore the dynamics of trust, uncertainty and possibility.  Her practice plays in the space between fiction and reality, merging the unexpected with the everyday.  Her work is interactive and intimate, often situating participants as protagonists in an unfolding narrative.

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