The Urban Conga Promotes Community Interaction with 'Shifting Totems' Installation

Shifting Totems is a permanent interactive installation of three aluminum structures that incorporate seating at their bases, range from 6 to 9 feet tall, and have segments laser-cut with letters that can be manually rotated by visitors to spell out inspiring words. Photography courtesy of the Urban Conga.

Plato once said, “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.” That was the inspiration for Shifting Totems, an interactive installation in Cleveland by the Urban Conga, a multidisciplinary studio that works to promote com­munity interaction through social activity. Designed through a series of workshops with residents of the Glenville neighborhood, where the project’s located, the three totems are formed from stacked aluminum segments, painted green to represent growth and nature, that can be manually rotated. Each segment has panels that have been laser-cut with different letters of the alphabet, so visitors can turn them to manipulate a totem’s appearance and create such words of empowerment as vote, knowledge, power, and strong. “Glenville has dealt with a lot of adversity,” Urban Conga founder Ryan Swanson says. “These provide an opportunity for people to engage not just with the work but also each other.”

Photography courtesy of the Urban Conga.
Photography courtesy of the Urban Conga.
Photography courtesy of the Urban Conga.