21 Swings

Artist: Daily / Tous les Jours
Location: Quartier des spectacles, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Year of completion: 2011
Researcher: Cameron Cartiere

21 Balançoires (21 Swings) was designed by Daily / Tous les Jours (principals Melissa Mongiat and Mouna Andraos) and commissioned by the city of Montréal via les Quartier des Spectacles to launch the Promenade des Artistes in 2011. The strip of land on Maisonneuve Street between Jeanne-Mance and Saint-Urbain Streets was previously a thoroughfare to the metro. Situated between the back of the opera house (Place des Arts) and the science building of the University of Quebec at Montréal (UQAM), the area underwent extensive construction to develop the Promenade des Artistes, a pedestrian strip lined with kiosk frames that would allow for easy transformation by vendors and craftspeople into food stalls and exhibition spaces.

The design team wanted to create a work that would bridge the worlds of arts and sciences, inspire collaboration, and invite people back to an area that had long been inaccessible due to the lengthy construction.

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Playfulness is embedded in all of Daily’s public art projects. Originally the team explored using seesaws as the interactive component, but, following a site visit, they decided to use the kiosk frames as the starting point so as to not compete with existing site components. The resulting design is an extended set of 21 interactive swings, each playing a unique note as the user moves back and forth. The swings mount onto the kiosk frames and are installed for eight weeks each spring, serving as a spectacular launch for the spring and summer season of outdoor activities in the quarter.

The work evolved with the assistance of animal behaviorist Luc-Alain Giraldeau from UQAM, who noted that the swings would invoke cooperation as well as collaboration. Local composer, Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, was commissioned to develop the sound element. Originally, nine swings played piano notes, six played vibraphone, and six played guitar. In subsequent years, a harp has been added.

When participants swing at random the notes can be cacophonous, but when they swing in unison, they can create a melody together.

The work has proven to be extremely popular. Originally commissioned as a one-time, temporary project, it was brought back by popular demand as an annual public event. The design team has refined the work over time; 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.

21 Obstacles is a giant digital pinball game projected on the side of the building facing 21 Swings. The game is activated both by participants on the swings and passersby. Using their mobile phones, passersby can launch a ball into the game and the movement of the swings directs the actions of the obstacles the balls must try and pass through. When the ball and the obstacle interact, visual effects are triggered.

21 Balançoires (21 Swings) is part of Printemps numérique 2014, an initiative of Montreal’s Conférence régionale des élus (CRÉ), in partnership with more than 50 organizations that showcase the effervescence and creativity of Montreal’s digital art community.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency