Initially appearing like a normal playground swing-set, Swing, by Moradavaga, is a playful and interactive installation comprising a set of four swings from which participants, by swinging, can create enough energy to power a series of inbuilt lights below the seats.
Swing implements a simple alternative means of energy production to generate public interaction and thought about the question of how we can approach sustainable energy.
Aesthetic/Visual: The artists comprising Moradavago, Manfred Eccli and Pedro Cavaco Leitão, wanted to create an interactive work that reflected on the industrial history of Guimarães. They aimed to build the installation to appear as though it was a piece of industrial machinery from a late 19th or early 20th Century factory, using traditional materials such as wood and hemp rope to resonate with this era. They also wanted the sound of the moving parts to resemble the noises created by old machines.
Innovation/Risk (Conceptual and Technical): The artists planned to adapt the simple, familiar and approachable idea of a swing into a thought-provoking interactive work that started conversations and asked visitors to re-think how modest engineering can create sustainable energy.
Personal Development and Education: With all their projects, Eccli and Cavaco Leitão aim to raise questions and find low-cost solutions that “sit in the crossroads of art, design, architecture and performance.” For Swing, they wanted to address the questions: how can we use space in different ways? are there different means for creating and using energy? They also wanted to explore issues surrounding changing people’s perspectives on public space.
Energy: The artists wanted to draw attention to simple alternative methods of creating energy.
OUTCOMES & IMPACTS
Audience Engagement: Initially the installation attracted children, but when adults realised that the work was more than a simple swing they increasingly interacted with it. Many people were curious and interested in the mechanism of the work and the sound the ropes made spinning around the wheels. Eccli and Cavaco Leitão felt that adults were attracted to the nostalgia of playing on swings as children.
Many different visitors interacted with Swing and shared advice and personal stories. Cavaco Leitão recalls, “some electrical engineers and mechanical engineers approached me and we discussed different ways of improving it [the mechanics] to make it more effective”. Another conversation with an elderly Dutch couple revealed that in Rotterdam during the Second World War bicycles were used in a similar way to generate electricity and listen to the news on the radio.
Education: Since the conclusion of the installation Eccli and Cavaco Leitão have had inquiries from science and technology teachers wanting to learn more about the artwork so they could teach their students about technical and creative aspects of it.
Energy: The key element of this work was the action of swinging to create energy to power the lights. Each swing was connected to a piece of rope that wound around a bicycle wheel to a connected counterweight. The swing units were entirely self-sustaining in terms of creating energy. With each swing the in-built dynamo creates energy, in turn switching on the lights below the swing seats.
Manfred Eccli and Pedro Cavaco Leitão entered their proposal for Swing into an open call for projects arranged by the European Capital of Culture in August 2011. The initiative called for projects in ‘pop up spaces’ that would regenerate the urban fabric of the city and create temporary interventions that activated certain areas of the town and opened discussion. Swing was one of 15 projects, selected from 250 proposals, to be commissioned by the European Commission for the 2012 European Capital of Culture in Guimarães.
One of the main issues Eccli and Cavaco Leitão faced was funding. Although the European Commission allocated funding for the artwork, the current financial crisis in the European Union, and specifically in Portugal, meant that the Portuguese government froze all funds. The artists were required to self-fund the artwork and at the time of interview were waiting on payment. Fortunately, they received in-kind sponsorship from Palsystems, who provided the wooden palettes to construct the base of the installation and also a warehouse in Guimarães to construct the installation locally. Utilising the warehouse also reduced the transportation logistics and costs. The artists built the work over the space of a week and transported the materials and modules to Plataforma das Artes to install.
Initially Eccli and Cavaco Leitão planned to create the work using scaffolding, which they realised did not suit the aesthetic they were trying to achieve. Additionally the artists admit they have little experience in steel construction and with budget constraints decided it was more appropriate to use materials with which they were more familiar. After the completion of Swing, the artists felt they had learned some lessons about the construction and function of the installation that they could improve upon if they were to make the work again. These were mainly related to enabling the swings to move more easily and to facilitate the creation of more light.
Eccli and Cavaco Leitão acknowledge that if they had had a larger budget they would have made some alterations and improvements to the work. For example, the original proposal outlined ten swings, which was reduced to six and then to four. This was primarily to do with the budget, but also based on space limitations. In addition, they would have used more powerful bicycle dynamos to produce more energy and hence more light.
IMPACTS OF ARTWORK PRODUCTION
Manfred Eccli and Pedro Cavaco Leitão designed the work to be modular and re-usable. The wooden palettes which created the base platform for the swings were made locally by Palsystems and are designed to be reused. Most of the materials used to create Swing were either bought or harvested from Guimarães and the construction of the work also took place there, reducing transport emissions. Currently, the installation is being stored in the Palsystems warehouse in Guimarães. The artists are working towards finding a permanent location to house the artwork.
Chalcraft, Emilie. “Swing by Moradavaga.” Dezeen Magazine, November 14, 2012. http://www.dezeen.com/2012/11/14/swing-installation-by-moradavaga/ (accessed February 26, 2013).
Eccli, Manfred and Pedro Cavaco Leitão. Interview by author, December 6, 2012.
Eccli, Manfred and Pedro Cavaco Leitão. Moradavaga. http://www.moradavaga.com/ (accessed December 6, 2012).
Eccli, Manfred and Pedro Cavaco Leitão. “Swing.” Moradavaga: The Vague Address, entry posted November 9, 2012. http://moradavaga.blogspot.com (accessed December 6, 2012).
Laylin, Tafline. “Swing is a Low Tech Energy-Generating Public Art Installation in Portugal.” Inhabitat, entry posted November 14, 2012. http://inhabitat.com/swing-is-a-low-tech-energy-generating-public-art-installation-in-portugal/ (accessed February 26, 2013).