Playful Revolution: Caroline Woolard’s Subway Swing

After 9-11, that sick, sinking feeling many weary commuters experienced stepping onto a crowded NYC subway car was magnified by the MTA’s stentorian banner campaign, “If You See Something, Say Something.” Artist  Caroline Woolard has found a delightful way to strip away the defensive layers of suspicion and dread that can accompany a subterranean commute, replacing default anxiety with spontaneous joy by crafting a backpack that transforms easily into a swing! Using 1000 mesh “L-train grey” cordura, webbing, sliders, hooks, velcro, and snaps, Woolard’s “bag swing” is fitted with sturdy straps that hook easily around the handrail of the subway:

Says Woolard: “I hope that the innocent amusement of swinging on the subway eclipses the current atmosphere of insulation and suspicion.”

Much of Woolard’s creative output seems to revolve around the idea that we should all strive to come into the moment, moving actively through the world rather than shuffling absently through it. Her emphasis on exploring pedestrian space and “cultivating everyday magic” in an urban environment encourages viewers (and participants) to reexamine their relationships with the overwhelmingly massive, immovable urban architecture they live in.

What is the relationship between play and revolution? Creating fissures in reality opens up the possibility for change: change in the everyday/monotonous routine, change in assumptions about ‘facts’, change in the world in general. The act of “making strange” allows a new perspective for reassessment and critique. Nothing is fixed and anyone can make the environment around them better.

Adventurous New Yorkers will definitely want to get on her email list.

Recently, presumably to take her site specific explorations a step further and be even more fully in the present, Woolard has stopped updating her art blog. “My projects are lived and may eventually lose any connection to Art…” In other words, she’s just doing it without defining it. “Many things are happening, but you must discover them in real time.” Bravo, Caroline.

Via the lovable guerilla art wunderkind SF Slim, thanks.

11 Responses to “Playful Revolution: Caroline Woolard’s Subway Swing”

  1. Ben Morris Says:

    I love this. This is genius. This is beautiful. This simultaneously captures childlike whimsy and transforms often mundane public space into shared joy.

  2. Alice Says:

    Ah! It’s enough to make a girl wish she subway’d!

  3. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Very much the same playful spirit as Parkour embodies. I approve!

  4. Ben Morris Says:

    This post has continued to bounce around within my cranium. My favorite part of the video is when the bystander asks if she can swing and then does so. The result of dwelling on this is that I would like to see (or much better directly experience) more art that involves participatory kinesthesia.

  5. BlueAnchorNatasha Says:

    We definately need more people like this in the world. This is SO neat! I wonder if you can actually put things IN the backpack? Would they hang on the underside of the swing to avoid being crushed? This definately beats Japan’s chin rest.

  6. Mer Says:

    Ben, I can’t stop thinking about it, either. Her ideas are amazing and inspiring in this really quiet, unassuming way.

    Jerem, yes, it does have that same “kicking against the bricks” feel to it that parkour does… only it’s much easier on the joints, not to mention the life expectancy. :)

    Natasha, I don’t know if you can put stuff in the backpack or not… I’d assume that if she’s using a lot of velcro, you could realistically keep stuff from falling out once it folds out into swing mode, but I dunno.

  7. Tequila Says:

    I think a well deserved “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” is in order.

    Brilliant idea…simple…fun…and easily something we all need each day. Just a bit of play before the grind of a work day you know?

  8. Phoenix Says:

    I find it strange that most of the people in the carriage just ignore what’s happening. Why does only one ask to have a go?

  9. Mer Says:

    Phoenix, it’s weird, right? But then, I’ve watched suited businessmen have gibbering nervous breakdowns on rush hour trains, as well as teenage mothers beat the shit out of their toddlers without getting much of a response. That’s New York public transit for you. Unless it involves excrement, people are pretty darn unflappable.

    Still… if you look closely, the really stiff (“I’m ignoring you, la la la, you don’t exist”) fellow in the green jacket actually warms up a bit after the second girl starts swinging. He even takes some pictures of the shenanigans.

  10. D M Says:

    Excellent idea!

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