A Mormon missionary, a shaman, and two college students meet in the park...

A Mormon missionary, a shaman, and two college students meet in the park...

Playing in Public

Keywords: 

design intervention

critical design

installation + pop-ups

art

This project explores what it means to witness someone: to be present for and open to someone, acknowledging their being and/or their words. Following the November 2016 Presidential election, it became very clear to me that the people of this country were and are struggling to hear and understand each other's opinions and beliefs. People across the political spectrum felt unheard, disrespected, and even victimized during this election. 

My collaborator and I set out to encourage conversation and understanding between, or even just acknowlegement of, strangers. We built wooden seesaws and installed them guerrilla-style in Boston Common. The seesaw provides a platform for communication via a mutually-understood game of raising and lowering, of finding balance and establishing trust.

 
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Giving permission to play

Our seesaw, when installed in a public space, invites passers-by to recall childhood memories and play. 

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Prompting use

We labeled the ends of our seesaw "stranger 1" and "stranger 2," nodding to the lexicon of children's literature and inviting folks to play with a stranger.

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Getting people face to face

The seesaw places two people face-to-face and engages them in a mutually understood game of balance and teamwork, while allowing them to see and talk to each other.

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Engaging a diverse crowd

When left alone, our seesaw attracted the interest of a wide variety of passers-by: a pair of Mormon missionaries, a group of Haitian immigrants, a trans* woman, some college students, some children, and a shaman. We saw people engage with strangers that they might have otherwise ignored, and we ourselves made some new friends.