Swings invade campus adding playfulness, mystery

Studio arts major creates buzz with installation

Photo/Mike Lovett

Maayan Bar-Yam ‘12

It’s not your imagination. Red swings have popped up around campus, adding a touch of playfulness and mystery. The student behind the 13 installations says he feels it is important for adults as well as children to have a place to have fun and relax.

“I am focusing my thesis work on creating structures that are interactive,” says Maayan Bar-Yam ‘12, a studio arts major. Inspired by various “guerrilla swing" operations such as the Red Swing Project, who hang red swings around the world to encourage playful moments to everyday lives, Bar-Yam’s project is proving infectious.

He started working on the installation a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and finished just before the end of last semester.

“It doesn’t take that long to hang any one swing,” says Bar-Yam, “but it was much more fun when I was able to hang them with friends and family.”

Most of the materials were purchased with funds from his senior studio fee, and the small amount that went over budget he paid for out of pocket.

Bar-Yam himself became perplexed when he went to go for a swing and realized that people were raising the seats.

“I am pretty short, and it's hard for me to judge how high the seat should be for any one person,” says Bar-Yam. “I was thrilled to see and hear from people that they were taking ownership of the swings and modifying them to their needs.”

Bar-Yam says another motivation for placing the swings throughout campus was to expand the display of student art beyond the usual area around Goldman-Schwartz.

“I am hoping to branch out of that corner to the rest of campus and inspire others to do the same, so more people see the great work that goes on,” says Bar-Yam.

The outdoor artist says he often sees people playing on the swings, especially near Rosenthal, where he installed two, side by side.

“People tell me that when they’re stressed out and jump on a swing it makes them feel better,” says Bar-Yam. “A big part of my work is having people interact with it in a physical way, as opposed to looking at it.  I want my installations to be a full body experience, whether you’re sliding down a tube or climbing on a structure. I don’t feel that there’s enough of that in the art world.”

Looking to the future, Bar-Yam would like to land a job creating play spaces for both adults and children. This, he says, could be manifest in playgrounds, exhibits in children's museums and in more mature-centered spots like offices spaces or outdoor areas geared towards adults.

“Having the community come together to help build installations will hopefully be a central part of my work,” say Bar-Yam. That way, he says, they not only get to enjoy the process, but will have a greater ownership, and subsequently treat it with more respect.

“I try to maintain a little bit of mystery about the swings,” says Bar-Yam. “ When a girl on campus recently found out I was the one who had put them up, she got very excited and told me that she was going to tell her friends that she had met the ‘swing fairy’.”

Categories: Arts, Student Life

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