Superflex: One Two Three Swing! at Turbine Hall, Tate Modern
What adult doesn’t love the opportunity to become a child again, even only for a few moments? It’s especially true if that moment comes in an otherwise grown-up context, such as drinking cocktails or visiting art galleries. For the newest Hyundai Commission in the gargantuan Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, Danish art collective Superflex are inviting visitors of all ages to get in touch with their childish side, and the results are definitely good fun.
The group has laid down a huge carpet on the sloping entrance to the Turbine Hall, striped with colours inspired by British bank notes. Above this a huge mirrored ball swings on a mesmerizingly slow pendulum. The pendulum represents apathy, according to Superflex, and the space is meant to inspire visitors to think about social problems. Certainly, it’s a nice place to lie back and reflect, but it’s difficult to understand how such an experience is going to inspire an audience to enact social changes.
The next phase of the installation is found at the bottom of the slope, where a single orange metal pole snakes through the space and connects a series of three-seater swings. These are very much intended for use: visitors are encouraged to have a go, ideally with the help of strangers. It’s noticeable that the swings behave differently with different numbers of “swingers”. It’s possible to have a go on your own, but much more satisfying with the added bulk of two others.
The idea behind the swings is to encourage visitors to talk to each other, to connect through the silliness of sharing a swing and through the compulsion to try to time the trajectory of your own swing to that of someone opposite you.
However, it feels like there is a problematic disconnect between the thinking behind the project and the sensations created while interacting with it. On the one hand, visitors are encouraged to contemplate society’s problems and possible solutions, and the repetitive motion of the swing does inspire introspection and contemplation. However, the fact that you have to talk to a total stranger in order to experience the swings properly (and no doubt contend with hordes of children and Instagrammers), means that there doesn’t seem to be much space left for reflection. Perhaps this is the point, but if so it’s much too subtle to grasp effectively.
This will surely be one of the Tate’s most popular commissions, but the ideas behind it don’t quite match up with the execution.
Superflex: One Two Three Swing! is at Tate Modern from 3rd October 2017 until 2nd April 2018, for further information visit the Tate Modern website here.