If you live in the Belgian coastal village of De Haan and find yourself in need of a rest some recent additions to the town’s provision of benches might make you lift an eyebrow before you sit yourself down. They add a whole new dimension to the phrase I didn’t know where to put myself.
The benches are not, as you may well suspect, the latest gift of a whacked out municipality to an unsuspecting public, however. They do, though, serve as real benches and are not safely ensconced in an art gallery. These crazy benches are artist Jeppe Hein’s creations and he wants you to sit on them.
Called Modified Social benches, Hein’s public seats are designed to evoke unexpected behaviour from those who encounter them. Although we see the benches alone here, the public are more than welcome to interact with them – though whether they will result in a restful repose it is difficult to say.
Yet rest is not really the objective here – it is conversation. Hein is famous for setting up installations which provoke a dialogue. I can easily imagine my mother’s reaction – I’m not sitting on that! Yet for the more adventurous and those who wish to have the conversation, then Modified Social Benches certainly do invite exploration.