March 25th, 2011

Bench: Mark!

I have a thing about benches. I am, slowly, amassing a lifelong photo essay on benches. Benches imply thoughtfulness, both on the part of the bench providers and on the part of the bench sitters. They are a pause, a caesura in the poetic line of life. They also mean community, being made for more than a single soul and serving as an excellent spot to watch all the other souls go by.

So, naturally, when I went to Berkeley the other day and had an extra minute or two while the rain was not pouring, I took this picture of bench art.

This piece plays with my assumptions. To begin, it is built on the concrete planter around a tree, itself a de facto bench. Then the seats face inwards, toward the tree, rather than out toward the larger panorama, maybe suggesting that it is time for a different sort of community, an acknowledgment of the life that does not go by, but stays put, rooted. It also gives the benches a feeling of exclusion; by sitting there, one puts one’s back to everyone not sitting there, looks away.

Finally, because the benches are Art, they seem to resist actual sitters. Small children will not be dissuaded and mothers and fathers will look at the sturdy construction and allow the climbing, but children are movers, not sitters, as a rule. Even if it had not been wet and about to be wetter, I don’t think I would have sat on them. And so I realize that I ignore the artistry of benchmakers in general.

In any case, the work is cool.