When planning for the 10th anniversary of the Green Box Arts Festival, co-founder Christian Keesee discovered that The Musical Swings was the most popular headliner of the previous decade, so the interactive installation was asked to return for this year’s celebration. In 2014, the festival had commissioned a smaller, temporary installation of 21 Balançoires (21 Swings) by the Montréal-based interactive design studio. Springs had the opportunity to go behind the scenes with Mouna Andraos, co-founder one of the principal artists of Daily tous les jours, to learn more about what makes The Musical Swings so special.
Springs: How do The Musical Swings work?
Mouna Andraos: Each colored swing is an instrument—a piano, vibraphone, guitar or harp—and the higher you swing, the higher your note. Eventually, people start working together with their neighbors. When they swing in synchronicity, melodies and arpeggios emerge, acting as a metaphor for our work—celebrating cooperation, harmony and collaboration … to demonstrate that we can achieve more together than alone.
Why an interactive piece?
Interactive art helps people become aware of their agency in their environment. The Swings comes to life only through the public, through those who participate. It’s an invitation for anyone—young, old, different languages, backgrounds, histories—to enjoy it together. Everyone comes with their own narrative and perspective.
How did the concept of The Swings come about?
During the ideation phase we invited science faculty, and a biology professor came knocking. His specialty was animal cooperative behaviors. We spent some fascinating weeks with him learning why some animal species work together, and that became the foundation. Also, the universal language of music was something that we had been working with and exploring, and the swing [creates] a very physical experience—you feel the motion in your body.
Since 2014, where have The Swings traveled?
West Palm Beach, San Jose, downtown Detroit and Lower Manhattan. What was exciting is that one out of three [participants] said they spoke to a stranger as a part of the experience. We imagine, hopefully, that it was someone they wouldn’t normally have encountered.
How does this piece compare to, or complement, your body of work?
The studio is focused on large-scale, interactive experiences in the public sphere. We’ve created public art installations in a variety places. In Arizona, we were commissioned to make a musical pavement that responds to shadows. In Houston, we had a temporary installation called Hello Trees! They have this canopy of century-old oaks, and learned that the trees send complex signals to each other. We wanted to celebrate that communication. We created arches into which you drop vocal messages that get translated over the course of 500 meters into light and sound patterns. We say our projects are simply complicated ways to get people to talk to each other. We imagine ways to create connection.
What were your thoughts on returning to Green Mountain Falls?
This [setting] stood out because The Swings was designed for an urban space. It was a fantastic [opportunity] to see how the perception of the work would be different here. How is it going to live in the middle of this beauty? Can we add something to a context that is already so rich? To bring it out in nature has been really striking. We couldn’t say no to the invitation to come back. Green Mountain Falls is quite special for us—it’s a beautiful encounter.
If You Go to Green Box
Read More About Green Box Arts Festival
June 29 – July 7
Most events free, but many require registration. greenboxarts.org
Learn more about Daily tous les jours at dailytouslesjours.com