“To understand, to be intelligent is not our overriding passion. We hope rather to be set in motion.” (Jean-François Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, 2004)
In the theory of art we are often confronted with topics such as the authorship and ownership of the work of art, the relation existing between art and its context and the meaning of the appropriation of public spaces either through public art or illegal interventions. Rope Swings touches and challenges the rules and preconceptions at the core of all these themes but — in its deliberate playfulness — it does so without the need of using any academical language. This collaborative exhibition by Cristina Lina and Andrew Gillman is the result of a project where the meaning of the action finds its answer in the beauty of the reaction, an operation that talks by itself and by its collaborative and inclusive nature just using the voice of its contagious freeing power.
During a period of three months the two British artists put up a number of rope swings in a dozen different locations in the city of London as a series of participatory interventions in the public space. All interventions were unauthorised and all the swings were left in place for other people to find and use. Setting the swings meant often hazardous climbs and conspicuous situations and while Cristina Lina was most usually working on tying and climbing and Andrew Gillman on filming and photographing, the two would also switch roles depending on the situations.
But why rope swings? Because rope swings are unmistakably fun, they are physically exhilarating as you experience a bodily freedom by jumping and swinging which is both scary and fun and beyond this undeniable aspect, these rope swings also had a potent perturbing effect by putting the places where they were installed off—balance. Off—balance in the sense that there was an appropriation of those spaces as the use and expectations planned for those very architectures, infrastructures and landscapes were bent. And, all of a sudden, all the rules and norms and possibilities of what happens are up in the air, and so this moment of freedom, where the world is “off balance” is happening twice: physically in your body, and then publicly as a visible activity.
Rope Swings presents the documentation of what happened in those months in London with stunning filmed and photographic footage, giving us a glimpse of these magic and powerful interventions, and at the same time the installative nature of the show challenges the audience into taking an active part themselves. We are given instructions on how to create ourselves the knots used for rope swings while at least two functioning swings will be put on — one in the city and one inside the gallery — allowing the public to experience in person this bodily thrill, scare and fun. Rope Swings is a contagiously fun show that powerfully spreads a concept that — with its wondrous and joyful unruliness — achieves spiritually but also literally Lyotard’s idea, it sets us in motion.
Cristina Lina (Colchester, 1986) is an British artist based in London with a background in graffiti and mural painting. As she continues to work with this format she is also experimenting with quilt making (that something she describes as “the opposite of spray-painting”), ceramics, performance, print and installation. Lina’s work is explicitly fun, yet at the same time disarming, creating a certain chaos through which new possibilities emerge. She has exhibited at the Art of Nuisance Residency, Stour Space, Stoke—on—Trent, and Somerset House in London. She has held workshops and created playground and open air installations in collaboration with schools, galleries and festivals in the UK and was featured on The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti by Rafael Schacter.
Andrew Gillman (London, 1982) was born in South London where he still lives and works. Gillman got his first 35mm point and shoot camera at 12 years old; the same age he discovered graffiti. From this point, graffiti writing, photography and exploration went hand in hand as all these elements helped shape a specific style, one that explores the unseen side of the City. With a focus on railways in the early years of his work, he has since sought to find the same visual energy in tunnels, rooftops, housing estates and abandoned buildings. Gillman is creating installation pieces made from materials (glass, metal and signs) found in the places he explores and he is now working with documentary filmmaking to look into London pastimes such as pirate radio, bottle digging and banger racing. He has exhibited at The Urban Spree Gallery in Berlin and The Lava Gallery in London.