21 Swings is an urban interactive installation located in downtown Montreal’s entertainment district, Quartier des Spectacles. Imagined as a collective experience, the work invites people of all ways of life and ages to make music together. 21 Swings is an installation where cooperation between participants unlocks secret melodies by encouraging collaboration and an active awareness of others.
Daily tous les jours French Canadian design group
In collaboration with animal behaviourist Luc-Alain Giraldeau from UQAM(Université du Québec à Montréal) and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, the installation’s composer.
The thought process was to create something that was playful in nature and then to alter the representation to see if that could break down the social barriers that are often seen in public spaces. The project intends to get total strangers to communicate, collaborate and interact through the unconventional method of fun
21 multi-coloured swings where each individual swing acts as a note of a musical instrument. As people swing, pre-recorded sounds from pianos and other instruments. The more swings are utilised, the more melodies and harmonies begin to form.
Each swing triggers notes from a classical instrument: piano, guitar, harp and vibraphone. A colour code indicates which instrument is played and directs the general public to try out different seats.
The interactive soundtrack is inspired by the pendulum. The higher the swing, the higher the note. When the swings move together in unison, they create a musical composition through which unique melodies can emerge if participants cooperate.
Originally commissioned as a one-time, temporary project, it was brought back by popular demand as an annual public event. The design firm proceeded to enhance the installation through several modifications; improving the swing cables, enhancing the lighting component in the swing seat, expanding the notes in the musical score, and in 2012 adding the interactive projection 21 Obstacles.
Following the success of the 21 Swings in Montreal, a touring version of the installation was created. It premiered in June 2014 at the Green Box Arts Festival in Colorado, USA. From there, it went on to be showcased in several other countries till this day. Studies had been made to analyse the impact of 21 swings and the touring version has on the society. One such study where the touring version, Musical Swings, was brought to several US states found significant economic and social impact it creates on the populace.
The first thing that struck me was this is literally a row of swings in an urban landscape. It seems simple and straightforward on first impression leading me to find out more. The amount of intriguing information about this urban interactive installation as shown above proofs that a simple idea of connecting multiple swings through sound feedback builds an experience from curiosity to enjoyment from shared experiences from complete strangers. Personally, what sets this installation different from the mainstream interactive artworks is the analogue approach and the element of fun. In an industry full of interactive works utilising sensors and technology, 21 Swings provide the opportunity for people to make their own unique shared experience and at the simplest level, to enjoy their time. The use of a universal social act of playing on a swing allows for higher engagement, something that might not occur given a different interactive approach.