Critical bench was a project made for our Public Space course.

The assignment for the course was to make an individual concept and prototype for something to be used in public space, more specifically the train station of Hasselt.

Being a train traveler myself, I was used to observing people out of boredom while they were walking through train stations or sitting on benches.

It was through active observation that I started to analyze their sitting behavior on those benches. It seemed that with the three-seat-setup that most Belgian train stations have, that if the bench was occupied, rarely would someone be willing to sit in the middle between two persons they don't know.

I wanted to make their thought process and the social awkwardness visible by letting the bench give critique to where they are sitting, hoping that it would spark some reaction.

Eventually, I wasn't able to install it in a public space, since the prototype was only to support the concept, but I would like to see what would have happened.

The prototype itself was made with DIY "buttons", I cut up some milk cartons, folded them in half, put aluminum foil on both sides connected to wires, and glued some sponge in between the sides. Whenever someone would sit on such a "sensor", the Arduino microcontroller would detect it.

The Arduino was connected to a computer, that ran a Pure Data patch, which would do the logic and trigger the sounds.

I then duct-taped these buttons to a bench and during the presentation invited my fellow students to go sit on it. It got some funny reactions.

I hadn't filmed it at the time, so I recreated the scene with our kitchen chairs. Thanks to Nina, Roel and Peter for acting!

Software & Technologies used:

Pure Data


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