Jeppe Hein

Jeppe Hein, Loop Bench, 2006

Jeppe Hein, Loop Bench, 2006

Jeppe Hein (b.1974, Copenhagen, Denmark), like many artists of his generation, is not interested in the artwork as statement but in the relational aesthetic that is created when art ‘works’. While most art, conventionally, can be thought of as a mirror in which we find ourselves reflected, or as a lamp to throw light on an unnoticed aspect of the world, Hein's art is more proactive – intended to provoke a reaction in the viewer that is in itself something new in the world: ‘The focus of my artistic work is...problematizing the situation between the viewer, the artwork and the space/environment.’

From this point of view, the artwork becomes the locus of a series of events. Although Hein does create art for institutional contexts, he has focused recently on inserting ‘architectural’ materials such as water, light and fire into public spaces, in which his art can function like stones dropped into the pool of city life. The ripples of reactions, the waves of consciousness that spread out and produce rumours as people tell each other about their experience, become the content of as well as the context for the artwork. Their ever-changing nature ensures that the art always remains fresh.

Hein’s uniquely reimagined Loop Bench (2006) was designed to undercut the attempts we make, when out in public, to wrap ourselves in a cocoon of private space.

Sitting on a public bench is anything but easy. It may appear to have been provided for your convenience, yet taking up a position always requires negotiation with both the structure itself and neighbouring inhabitants. Should you be lucky enough to find it empty, you still have to choose how best to place yourself to discourage others. Benches seem to offer a moment of respite, but the reality demands continued involvement with the unspoken etiquette of the streets you are trying to escape. Hein’s Loop Bench undercut the cocoon we vainly try to construct around ourselves when out in public.

His benches are designed to make unvoiced codes visible, and to generate a series of encounters which prompt us to resist the urge to extend private territory into public space. Hein’s work is sometimes described as ‘interactive’. Yet his real interest lies not in creating objects with which to interact, but in the power of that initial engagement to ripple out beyond the work itself to create new interactions with and in public space. Hein transforms the bench from a place of individual retreat from which to watch the world go by into a performative stage where the passing world views us united in a communal obstacle course.

Jeppe Hein at Liverpool Biennial 2006 

Loop Bench, 
Steel bench measuring 18m x 10m
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 

Supported by

Northwest Regional Development Agency
Embassy of Denmark
Goethe-Institut, Manchester