For many of New York City’s 60,000 homeless people, park benches double as beds. As a public art monument to this marginalized population, Brooklyn-based French artist Fanny Allié designed “A Bench for the Night,” a park bench carved in the shape of a sleeping man’s silhouette. It’s just been installed outside MoMA PS1 in Long Island City as part of the Parks Department’s Art in the Parks program.
Made of reclaimed wood from a lumberyard and based on a sketch of her posing husband, it’s a bit of functional sculpture that encourages empathy by inviting those sitting on the bench to imagine having to sleep there for the night. Allié came up with the concept for the piece while working in the Engaging Artists residency program, which had a focus on social justice issues, and during which she volunteered at a homeless shelter.
“The piece isn’t only about raising awareness of homelessness,” Allié says in a phone interview. “When you sit on the bench, you might talk to strangers, have different interactions with people, and that social aspect is also part of the concept.” It’s not the first piece Allié has made that addresses issues of homelessness–in 2011, she created a similar sculpture for a one-night event in Greenpoint, depicting a human outline in neon resting on a bench. “I always wanted to do something more interactive and long-term,” she says.
“A Bench for the Night” will be on display until November 15.
Follow Carey Dunne on Twitter @careydunne