Humboldt Park Installation Art
Playground Installation suspended on Island

EE decided to go exploring in Humboldt Park in Chicago. In the lagoon, there was a small make-shift walkway through a bit of marsh, onto an island. The island was full of trees and kind of small, probably about 5000 square feet in all. No one inconvenienced themselves by going to this notorious park and wading through a bit of filth to get on the island except for children and heroin junkies. According to one man, "junkie island" was a place overlooked by the police, where junkies could go and shoot up. Consequently, the island was littered with dangerous medical trash, needles, condoms, human waste, and general garbage. It was truly disgusting. This was a perfect place for a transformation, respect and beautifying, recognition, an unsuspecting playground.


zipline and net playground installation, art chicago

EE reconaisance team went out to the island and planned the placement of our big 40 foot by 25 foot net and an overhead zipline ride. The first jaunts onto the island were scary. We built a few ladders by nailing wood to the trees, so we could set up a launch pad and affix the nets to a certain tree grouping that would give us enough space to work with.
The inhabitant junkies of the island thought we were working for the police and setting up observation decks. Luckily, one man spoke to us and told the other islanders that we were just artists wanting to set up a playground, oh, OK.

The hot July day came to do the installation. It took a couple hours only. Connections were made for the net, and the zipline was installed. Kids were constantly exploring the island and were amazingly attracted and energized to find out what EE was up to. The children's presence also kept the undesirable crime element that was also constantly looming away. Our adult friends finally showed up and enjoyed the elevated relaxation, exhillarating zipline ride, and the cool breeze only found twenty five feet in the air.
tree net abstract art installation photograph mike smith
urban art installation playground, chicago This photo is a great action shot of EE's poster child Greg Willis. The shot makes Greg's tongue look like a cow's, so artist TJ decided to dedicate a painting of this photo to the EE archive. As you can tell, the ride was swift, then the rider would let go near the end and fall into the safety net. People got a bit carried away and started riding double, upside down and backwards, etc. No injuries though. The kids did not stop wanting to ride the zipline and their enthusiasm caught on.
Unoccupied space was again made into interactive art.
Here is a shot of the ride from above. The foliage hides the disgusting trash below. A huge group effort was made to clean up trash, careful not to poke oneself with any stray needles. We collected about ten full bags of trash, and left a huge pile for the park district to clean up. We also offered bike rides around the park on Dave's four person bike (not shown).
As the day grew dark, we dismantled the installation. As we were leaving the island at dusk, we were halted by two cars speeding thruogh the park on the grass shooting guns at one another, we ducked in the reeds and sighed.
Since then, the island's entrance swamp has been trenched, and access to the island stopped. It was a very dangerous playground indeed, but this type of environment cries out for playful encroachment most.
humboldt park zipline artist playground

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