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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Swinging Against Competition

Building at the Headland Center for the Arts

Went to the Headlands Center for the Arts Open House on Sunday. The lot was full, and I parked outside the old gym. I wandered in and saw ten people swinging. Five on each side facing each other. Heavy rope reached far above our heads, bolted into the ceiling. Unlike the chain swings of childhood, these seemed to swing more slowly. Instead of yelps of delight, there was mostly silence.

The artist, Paolo Salvagione, entitled the piece “Competitive Swinging.” His beautiful letterpress explanation says, “It lifts the curvilinear markings from the floor and renders them in space. And it renders them with the weight of the seated human body. It sets five of these bodies against another five, two rows of nearly invisible bleachers suspended in the air. Each body traces a pendulum in the air, ten flesh clocks marking time.”

As a child, I hated physical education class, except that I could run very fast. Beginning in elementary school, I advocated against games, saying that competition led to war. What the artist accomplished here, whether he intended to or not, was a slowing down, a victory over competition, an event where everybody contributed by moving independently.

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