Molly Haslund on creating playful sculptures for public spaces

    On Mårtenstorget, in front of Lund Kunsthal, are three play sculptures by artist Molly Haslund. We spoke to Molly about creating art that brings play, movement and interaction into the public space. And about scaling and materials.

    The three works: 'Magiske Cirkler' (Magic Circles), 'Genvejsfontæne' (Reversible Fountain) and ‘Hop ind, hop ud' (Jump In, Jump Out) were produced in collaboration with Elverdal.

    A playful work for the public space - how do you approach the task?

    When I make works for the public space, I relate to the task itself as formulated by those who have requested it. There are often many requirements and functions to work from. But I also investigate what is going on in that place. I like to spend a day or two just sitting there and observing the street and shop life to find out what movements, flows and energies are present.
    I relate to what I observe and think about how it all fits together with the criteria of the works. Then I also think about how the people I see and meet have to live with the work. That they will fare here, walk past the works, - perhaps even on a daily basis.

    What can artistic intervention do for play and movement?

    It can help raise awareness around the fact that our bodies and movement patterns - the way we think about them and put them into practice - hold infinite possibilities. And it can highlight that small interruptions and deviations in our day can have an impact on our everyday life.
    I like the works to be connected to reality, but there has to be a twist. They must get us out of our habitual patterns of function and movement.
    It's also about getting together and doing something active - something that bridges the gap between contemplation, play and sport - where the activity and rules you make up while playing arise on an intuitive level, and therefore break with expectations of what play is.

    Works that create encounters and interactions

    What do you want your works to contribute to?
    For the sculptures on Mårtenstorget in Lund, which Elverdal so generously helped to produce, the task was to create one or more works that would function both as sculptures and inspire play for several age groups.

    The location is opposite and close to Lund Kunsthal, designed by architect Klas Anshelm (1914-1980). From the outside, it's a beautiful, minimalist building. So I wanted to do something that wasn't necessarily too spectacular.

    The architect has put a 50-metre-long bench on the facade of the art gallery facing the square, so I thought that my works should not interfere with the view of those who want to sit on the bench and watch the life in the square. At the same time, those who want to use the works actively can find an audience in the 'bench seats'.

    I want the works to help people meet, to move intuitively in and between the works - to play. Adults meet while watching the children playing by the maze and fountain. They might discover the giant hopscotch, jump along together or take a selfie in the 'magic circles'. Or maybe you check out what you can do with the circles - maybe go through them.

    Photographer: Matilde Haaning

    Games and familiar equipment get new perspectives

    What inspires you?
    All sorts of things. But often things that can set the human body in motion. Traditional toys and games inspire me to take them to reinterpret them and change them a bit so they are experienced in a new way. They have a built-in language that guides me on how to move with them.
    ...I keep coming across things that are familiar, that are somehow embedded far back in our consciousness. I want to give the things we take for granted
    a new life and perspective;

    I had worked with before as a coordination model, where the hopscotch is elevated so that you jump one metre up in the air.
    I had been thinking for some time about making a giant hopscotch, and then the chance in Lund came up to expand the area where the sculptures would be. By placing the hopscotch between the cobblestones, there would still be room for goods traffic to the art gallery. And I also thought it would be smart to get the body moving before going to an exhibition, by actually encouraging people to hop into the art gallery.

    The fountain was already there, and part of the job at Mårtenstorget was to integrate the fountain into the work. Another criterion was that the sculptures around the fountain had to help prevent cars from driving over that particular area.

    As the space in front of the art gallery was a passage where many people split off in different directions, I thought of a maze with several exits that could function in multiple ways:
    For short stays, for balancing, and for very young children to learn to walk by leaning on the maze while approaching the water.

    How do you work with sizing and material selection?

    Size ratios make us more aware of our own size. When we are made smaller, we may find it easier to play!

    I use my own or friends' bodies as a yardstick and try to hit a point in the
    scale that is not too drastic, but still challenging and changing - and then of course there are all the safety requirements that have to fit too.

    I'm fascinated by what man-made objects can do. But at the same time I also want to find out if they can do more - if there is something about them that we haven't discovered yet? And this often becomes more noticeable when they are magnified, diminished, doubled or repeated multiple times next to each other.

    The works for Mårtenstorget are in steel, but other times you have worked with wood. How do you choose the material?

    It has a lot to do with what the works have to be able to withstand, i.e. something functional. Most works in wood are temporary or part of a performance piece. Wood is also the material I am best at handling, and it’s not too expensive.

    Steel came into play when I had to make the permanent work for Mårtenstorget. It had to be able to withstand a lot and preferably last a number of years. I had seen some things that I thought looked good in steel - some railings at the airport and some small key rings at the shoemaker's.
    "Magic Circles" on Mårtenstorget is actually inspired by an ordinary key ring, but I can see that it is clearly a hula hoop!

    What does the craft mean to you?
    I just love when things are made properly - it's also rewarding to see something being created by people who take pride in their craft.
    When something is done well, it also creates confidence and a karma that rubs off on the environment. You actually want to look after something that’s made well.

    Molly Haslund is currently working on a new work for a children’s nursery. What is the new work about?

    It will be about bringing life to the nursery’s entrance where children arrive in the morning and are picked up again in the evening.
    I work with visual rhythmic sequences, but also with size variations that point
    out how tall the children are. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
    We're a bit behind due to the pandemic, but we'll probably finish soon.

    Read more about Molly Haslund on her website.