Contorting Social Benches Force You to Chat
The familiar form of the outdoor bench is so ubiquitous that most of us don’t even consciously see the benches unless we’re looking for a place to rest our bones. But Danish artist Jeppe Hein has made sure that park benches get noticed. Hein’s project “Modified Social Benches” is a public art installation that distorts everyone’s favorite park seating surface in a variety of crazy ways.
Some of the distortions are minor, some add beneficial features to the benches, and some make the benches entirely unusable. But all of the modifications do one thing very well: they draw attention.
According to the artist, the goal of the project is to encourage interaction. Interaction between the public and the benches, and interaction between the people who use the benches.
Imagine walking up to a bench at your local park and finding it contorted into one of these insane shapes. Would you walk on and find another place to sit, or would you stay and try it out?
Although most of the benches look fairly comfortable, there are a few that would be risky to actually use. But as for the artist’s goal of encouraging interaction, the project has undoubtedly been successful.
More from the artist
“Out of investigating architecture, communication, and social behavior in the urban space, a series of bench designs was born under the common title Modified Social Benches. The bench designs borrow their basic form from the ubiquitous park or garden bench, but are altered to various degrees to make the act of sitting a conscious physical endeavor. With their modifications, the benches transform their surroundings into places of activity rather than rest and solitude; they foster exchange between the users and the passers-by, thus lending the work a social quality. Due to their alterations, the benches end up somewhere between a dysfunctional object and a functional piece of furniture, and therefore demonstrate the contradiction between artwork and functional object.”