In full swing: Tate's Turbine Hall turned into adult playground

Tate Modern installation One Two Three Swing! uses three-person swing to combat social apathy through collective action

Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall has been turned into a playground with visitors encouraged to make new friends and, literally, get on a swing.

Less active and less friendly visitors can lie on a carpet and be hypnotised by a large mirrored ball swinging from the ceiling. “We’ve made sure the carpet is very thick so it is extremely comfortable, you can rest,” said Rasmus Nielsen, one of the artists behind the creation. “You can come here and take a nap.”

A woman looks up at a giant pendulum
A woman looks up at a giant pendulum. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Nielsen is one-third of the Danish art collective Superflex. He has and the other two members, Jakob Fenger and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, have been working together since 1993 and are the latest artists to fill one of the most daunting and prestigious contemporary art spaces in the world.

Their huge interactive installation – divided into three sections representing apathy, production and movement – is called One Two Three Swing!

A stripey carpet covers the Turbine Hall’s sloping entrance with a mirrored pendulum swinging above. Next are 22 three-person swings connected by an orange line and carefully arranged so visitors using it do not kick other people in the head. Then there is a small factory where swing seats can be assembled.

The idea is that people can have fun while contemplating bigger issues such as community, capitalism or themselves.

Nielsen said that kind of contemplation was important. “It still feels like we are living in the last couple of hours of the Titanic. There is a sense of inability to imagine things otherwise, on a structural level.”

It is not the first interactive installation in Turbine Hall. Carsten Höller invited people to hurtle down his helter-skelters while Olafur Eliasson encouraged visitors to lie down and enjoy fake mist and sunshine.

Achim Borchardt-Hume, Tate Modern’s director of exhibitions, called the Superflex installation “one of the best pieces of intelligent fun I’ve seen for a long time”.

He added: “We live in a world which doesn’t exactly have a surplus of fun, nor a surplus of intelligence, so to have both combined in Turbine Hall is a great thing.”

A man swings on the installation
A man swings on the installation. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

The artists in Superflex have worked together – never alone – for around 25 years. “We don’t really believe that there is such a thing as an individual artist, all art is built on something else,” said Nielsen. “It is like they say in Liverpool, ‘You’ll never walk alone’ but even more spiced up... ‘You cannot walk alone.’”

Their previous work includes creating a multicultural park in one of Copenhagen’s most diverse neighbourhoods, with picnic benches from Armenia, a Thai boxing ring, litter bins from the UK and a set of swings from Iraq.

For a show at the South London Gallery in 2009, Superflex mused on global capitalism and climate change by showing a film of a replica McDonald’s burger bar being slowly flooded, as in a disaster movie.

At their new installation it will, of course, be possible to swing alone but the artists say it is far better with three people, that it has a greater potential. “Swinging as three, our collective energy resists gravity and challenges the laws of nature,” say the artists. “If we all swing at the same time, can we change the way the earth spins?”

Swings have also been installed outside Tate Modern’s entrance and the hope is that the concept will go viral and three-person swings will be used in the wider world. “This is a starting point,” said Christiansen. “We are going to explore what can happen with this line of swings and where that goes.”

Donald Hyslop, the project’s lead curator, said there was a lot going on in the artwork. “There are lots of layers and one of them is just elemental, for children of all ages. When you get on that swing – and I haven’t been on one for more years than I’d care to mention – you immediately reboot.”

The giant pendulum. The thick carpet is designed to encourage visitors to lie on it and rest.
The giant pendulum. The thick carpet is designed to encourage visitors to lie on it and rest. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

It will also raise questions about the nature of life, and “climate change, currency, community, urbanism … all are there in the work.

“If the diagnosis is around apathy and being overwhelmed, the antidote is here as well which is collective movement and collective action.”

• Hyundai Commission 2017 – Superflex: One Two Three Swing! is at Tate Modern from 3 October until 2 April 2018.


Mark Brown Arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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