1 MAY – 24 NOVEMBER 2019

Not long ago, benches were to be found everywhere in our cities and people used them to meet and talk about their life, the weather, and the latest gossip. I notice that benches are being removed from our cities more and more. In general, free, creative spaces and areas designed to enable interaction and involve people in a dialogue with the surroundings and others are absent from most contemporary cities.I don’t declare myself a political artist in the narrower sense, but the social impact of my artworks is of utmost importance to me and I am trying to create such places again with my public installations. Because I think that people need to start a joint dialogue again and reach out to others with their hearts. I consider this dialogue very important. Even more, today, where we seem to communicate a lot through social media, but talk less to each other directly, face to face while looking each other into our eyes. This is something I want to change and this can be understood as a political message too.

My Modified Social Benches offer an excellent opportunity for social interaction, playfulness, laughter, and communication. That is why I would love to be able to place a couple of newly designed and coloured MODIFIED SOCIAL BENCH VENICE during the Biennial in 2019.Based on long-term research on the topic of proxemics and distance and inspired by traditional as well as modern benches to be found worldwide, I created my series of Modified Social Benches. As daily life furniture in urban architecture, benches can be public spaces and places of private rest. On the one hand, benches provide an excellent opportunity for communication and social exchange. On the other hand, they offer moments of respite. Thus their design influences people’s behavior in public, by allowing them to place themselves to discourage or encourage others to take a seat next to them. My Modified Social Benches borrow their basic form from ubiquitous park or garden benches, but their design is altered to various degrees to make the act of sitting a conscious physical process. Thus, the benches question the spatial separations in social situations and challenge the amount of space that people feel necessary to set between themselves and others. Distance between people is a kind of non-verbal communication that underlies cultural and social imprints and varies depending on the context. There’s less distance in personal situations among close family and a greater distance in public spaces where strangers surround us. My benches are intended to break with those behavioral patterns in public space since even contact-avoiding people allow bodily closeness in limited space. With its modifications, the benches transform their surroundings into places of social activity and foster dialogue between the users and the passers-by. People are invited to play an active role by not only "using" the benches as seating but enlarging the opportunities for social practice offered by a bench.For Venice, I would like to propose a continuing bench, although it will only be visible in certain places. A series of different bench designs will be connected in a continuous imaginary line. In some places the bench sinks into the ground gently ascending elsewhere, thus creating the impression of running underground. In a figurative sense, the benches seem to grow out of the Giardini and connect the individual pavilions and the exhibition hall. Due to the high recognition value of the single benches, visitors will be given a feel for the area allowing orientation when exploring the site and serving as a guideline making them smile at the same time.

In my view my MODIFIED SOCIAL BENCH VENICE can be a sign of understanding and dialogue, for empathy and love – a tool that is needed in times like these.MODIFIED SOCIAL BENCH VENICE, 2019
Powder-coated aluminum
4 benches, dimensions variable

© Courtesy KÖNIG GALERIE, Berlin, 303 Gallery, New York and Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Copenhagen
© Images Andrea Rosetti



Jeppe Hein (b. 1974 in Copenhagen, Denmark) is a Danish artist based in Berlin. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Arts in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Städel Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Jeppe Hein is widely known for his production of experiential and interactive artworks that can be positioned at the junction where art, architecture, and technical inventions intersect. Unique in their formal simplicity and notable for their frequent use of humor, his works engage in a lively dialogue with the traditions of Minimalist sculpture and Conceptual art of the 1970s. Jeppe Hein’s works often feature...
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