Playful design in an urban environment? My favorite!
Clever and talented Danish artist Jeppe Hein has been custom-making his “Modified Social Benches” for museums, arts festivals, and plazas since the mid-2000s. Most recently, he created a unique set of art you can sit on for Beaufort04, the fourth Triennial of Contemporary Art by the Sea this summer in Belgium. Kids, cool kids, and adults all seem to love playing with these.
Hein says his powder-coated aluminium “social benches” borrow their basic form from the standard park bench, but are altered to make the “act of sitting on them a conscious physical endeavor.” As they mutate, the benches become spaces to “inhabit,” rather than just places to park it and relax for a moment.
The pieces may seem like fun one-offs, but something then happens between the work and the community: “As is the case with much of Hein’s work, the Modified Social Benches on the dyke in De Haan seem to hide behind a disguise of fun and entertainment. But what they actually evoke is a process of interaction and communication that works on different levels.”
There are as many ways to play as there are people. You might take a morning walk and make discoveries with new eyes. Be a traveler in your city and visit a museum, gallery, or park you have never been to before. Put a date on your calendar to attend a local parade or arts festival with friends. People watch at the farmers market. Once you get started the playful ideas are endless.
I like how Long is emphasizing the less physical ways to play, and instead focusing on interacting and being aware of one’s environment, which can often be very playful but not quite as active or aggressive as more
traditionally thought of kinds of play. So often people think that play is only about kicking a ball around the field, and while I don’t think Americans get nearly enough exercise, I do feel that these quieter, more introspective types of play can get overlooked.
What’s your favorite kind of “quiet” or more imagination-focused play? I love people-watching, making up stories about people, attending festivals, or just observing nature. Leave your favorite ways in the comments below.