Imagine this: you walk into a bare, airy, grey hall. In the background, you can vaguely hear what seems like underwater sounds. You see an informational sign. It tells you that what you are experiencing is artwork. The sounds are supposed to make you think about how you experience space, but you are not quite sure what this means and whether you will make the effort to find out. You guess not. You walk out of the hall again, glad that at least you did not pay an entrance fee. You resume your day where it had left off, and do not wonder whether the other people in the hall are still there, or what they think, or what they do.
Now imagine laughter. Imagine children playing around in the same but transformed hall, on a brightly coloured carpet, and adults that swing on three-person wide swings. You join them. You see an informational sign. It tells you that what you are experiencing is an artwork. The installation is supposed to make you think about how the economy affects you and how people have more power if they are united. You are not quite sure what this means and whether you will make the effort to find out. You guess not, because you really want to get back on that swing. Three-people swings make for way more exciting swings than a normal, because it’s fast.
Art appears to have a problem: a lot of people don’t care about it. Perhaps this has always been the case, and people only notice now. Perhaps there has just been a decline in people that care. Perhaps this is what people of every generation have said and will continue to say as if it is an urgent, new problem that must be tackled. I do not know, but what I do know is that if you want people to care about art, art must care about people. And not just about a small group of self-congratulatory artists that receive subsidies to make things for themselves. Art must care about everyone, especially if everyone is paying for it.
The first example is about art that does not do this. This art is inaccessible. There weren’t many people who were inspired enough to find out more about it, to return to experience the space differently again. But there is also art that can involve everyone. Perhaps people will be left fascinated by the sign and then embark on a tour of all museums that London has to offer. But alas, people probably won’t. But that is all right. Because at least they had a good time, at least they smiled. They might wander off further into the museum, or might think about the informational sign on a sleepless night and it will suddenly make sense to them, so that they end up being a bit happier, or even just a bit less sad. But if they do not, that is okay. Because they spent one afternoon with their family. Because they went into the museum alone and came out with two friends, because swinging with three people is so much more fun that swinging alone. Even if you just walk in there and are briefly lifted above your daily flow, and smiled for just a bit, this installation has achieved more than most.
Both artworks described above featured in the Tate Modern Turbine hall. I have forgotten the name and the artist of the first one, and I do not care to find out. The second one is on right now. It is called One Two Three Swing! and was created by the Danish artists’ collective SUPERFLEX. If the art community indeed wants to popularise art, SUPERFLEX’s way is the way to do it. Art experts might ‘get’ the meaning right away. For others, there are some helpful questions written on the wall to guide your thinking process. But do not worry if you do not feel like that: just come along and swing.