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Art in the Park: Interview with Jeppe Hein

Jeppe Hein,  Mirror Labyrinth , 2007

Jeppe Hein, Mirror Labyrinth, 2007

The Public Art Fund presents “Please Touch the Art,” an exhibition of public works by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, beginning May 17 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Here, we talk with the artist about the importance of play, interactive art and building a bridge between strangers in public space.

What is the role of humor in your work?

I like to fascinate viewers and make them smile, but though I am pleased when my works amuse the audience, my main aim is not to merely entertain people, and my concepts are always based on serious principles. However, playfulness and participation make it easier for people – especially for those who normally are not in touch with art – to approach artworks.

How does this concept translate into the material form?

For example, I am interested in the design of benches, trying to analyze and modify their architectural and social function. As furniture that is part of daily life in urban architecture, they can act as both public space and place 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 has an influence on people’s behavior in public, by giving them the opportunity to place themselves in order to discourage or encourage others to take a seat next to them. 

Modified Social Benches  blur the line between art and object.

Modified Social Benches blur the line between art and object.

Tell us more about your Modified Social Benches and how they differ from typical park benches.

The design of my Modified Social Benches borrows the basic form from the normal park or garden bench seen everywhere but is altered in various degrees to make the act of sitting on it a conscious physical endeavor. The benches have feet, offer space to sit and a back to lean on. But unlike usual benches, they consist of elongated, winding, rapidly rising or falling lines of seating with high arches, sharp bends or small loops. With their modifications, the spaces they inhabit become active rather than places of rest and solitude; they foster exchange between the users and the passers-by, thus lending the work a social quality

Text by Lauren Pellerano Gomez. This article originally appeared in Cultured Magazine.

Lauren Gomez