Soaring back and forth on a swing is one of childhood's greatest pleasures, an activity usually enjoyed outside. But Cincinnati, Ohio-based artist Mark de Jong has other more delightful ideas, having recently completed an art installation that includes a three-storey-high swing suspended inside a renovated house dating back to the 1880s.
Dubbed Swing House, it's the culmination of three years of hard work revamping the interior of the old building, which involved removing walls and floors to open up the entire space for this massive swing that now hangs 30 feet from a new metal beam above.
According to CityBeat, the concept behind Swing House has been on de Jong's mind though for decades. A trained artist who also has experience in the construction industry, de Jong is known for his creative renovations that blur the line between art and architecture. Back in 2015, De Jong bought the then-dilapidated building through the city’s nuisance abatement procedure. But instead demolishing it and building something new (and potentially out-of-character with the rest of the street), de Jong wanted to highlight its history by transforming it into an 'art house' of sorts, including a renovated basement that now functions as a mini-gallery.
De Jong has achieved this look into the past by peeling back, preserving and making visible old layers of colour or materials. These historical traces are then visible as one swings up and down in the air. Nevertheless, the central element is the swing itself, says de Jong:
In my past projects, I may have included artistic elements, but all the considerations were made around the program of renovating a house. But in this, the program of the house is really the swing… the arc of the swing. All the decisions I made are about the swing.
These decisions to focus on the swing are clear in the way de Jong has reorganized the layout: from the placement of the stairs and furniture, space has been created for the full expression of someone activating the swing. Even then, the little details matter: some of the other furniture has been purposely built to look like it's floating off the ground, much like those swinging away. On more practical matters however, de Jong's project uses reclaimed materials sourced from the house itself, and preserves a piece of Cincinnati's history. In addition, his careful selection of insulation, quality windows, doors and HVAC system has meant lowered energy bills, even though it's quite a cavernous space. But in the end, it's all about the essence of joy and quiet wonder:
This piece, in its perfect manifestation, is about experiencing. It is to really be alone inside the space. A couple or an individual will be having a quiet moment with the house, with my work and with my journey. Being on the swing is about contemplation of lives lived — those who lived in the house as well as that of the person participating in the piece by swinging.
De Jong plans to potentially rent out the Swing House along the lines of an AirBnb, but for now, it is open for scheduled visits through Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center (August 18 and 25, and September 1st). For more information, visit CityBeat and Contemporary Arts Center.