Linda Hesh's "Bench Project"

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Gareth Branwyn writes on technology, pop and fringe culture. He is currently a Contributing Editor at Maker Media. Recent projects have included co-creating The Maker's Notebook and editing The Best of MAKE and The Best of Instructables collections.

DC-area artist Linda Hesh does a lot of situational art that uses common products and familiar locales to address race, gender, sex, political polarization, and other typically prickly issues. She does this with a great deal of style, wit, and wry humor. Her "White Liberal Products" series is a line of Cafe Press mugs, t-shirts, tote bags, and baby onesies that sport the slogans: "I Like Black People," "I Like Brown People," "I Like Yellow People." Her "Desolation Doorknob" series are paper doorknob hangers with quizzical statements like "I didn't ask for this," "I don't know what to do," and "I tried to forget." She leaves the hangers on residential and commercial doors around town. You can also buy them (along with the White Liberal Products) and join in the culture jam yourself. Linda's most recent project was the For and Against Benches. These were two 6' steel benches, one green that said "FOR," one red that said "AGAINST." She set them up in locations around DC last fall, leading up to the election. Passers-by could sit on the bench of their choosing, then write down the thing they were for or against. As you can imagine, a lot of dominant cultural and political issues were on people's minds, like poverty, hunger, the Iraq war, freedom of speech, and world peace. But there were smaller, and some sillier concerns too, like chocolate, big screen TVs, and camelback crickets (that last one was a "For," BTW). Linda says that most people gave serious thought to what they wrote down and took the gesture seriously. In the end, she got 1000 written opinions and 309 photos of people posing on the benches. You can see an online gallery of the photos and the statements at Linda's website here.


  1. thats a pretty cool project. i love boingboing for showing me these things that i would otherwise never know about. it makes my day.

  2. That’s a fun idea.

    She should enlist a graphic designer who’s skilled at typography to give the messages more punch.

  3. >She should enlist a graphic designer who’s skilled >at typography to give the messages more punch.

    Linda Hesh is a very talented designer. This work looks the way it does — utilitarian, generic, commonplace — because she wants it to look that way.

  4. I love how you forget that you ate asparagus, then hours later, you’re peeing and you think “EW… what’s that… Oh, right. Asparagus.” That little stink-bomb prank on yourself is reason enough to eat it!

  5. Aspargus Pee Scent guy looks like his pupils have been whited out – theres a sense of evil commanding me to be against stinky pee. Which I very much am.

  6. I am currently against talking about asparagus pee scent.

    Also I am for that picture for gay marriage, what a great moment.

  7. Asparagus pee scent happens so fast! I ate a bunch just a couple days ago and my pee like 10 MINUTES LATER had it.

    I’m glad this gave me a chance to post about that, because it totally blew my mind.

  8. Argh, I can’t believe I checked back to see if people had finally ceased the inane asparagus pee conversation.

    And I’m extremely disappointed that it continued, this post had a whole lot more worthwhile comment opportunities than the act of smelling one’s pee.

    BTW are there other foods that affect pee as well, I never even knew about the asparagus thing?

  9. So those who are apathetic about an issue have to stand? Typical. I’d start a protest, but…y’know.

  10. “* Foul smelling urine may be caused by bacteria, a common sign of a urinary tract or bladder infection.
    * Sweet smelling urine is a sign of diabetes or a rare disease of metabolism.
    * Musty smelling urine may be a sign of liver disease and certain metabolic disorders.
    * Ammonia smell is a concentrated urine due to dehydration.
    * Burned caramel smell is a sign of a very rare life-threatening inherited maple syrup urine disease.
    * Certain foods and medicines, including vitamins, may affect your urine’s odor ~ asparagus causes a characteristic odor.”

    what’s it mean when you urine smells like napalm?

  11. >So those who are apathetic about an issue have to stand?

    That’s actually one of the things I like about this piece is that you SIT DOWN for a cause rather than standing up. And that you can be doing so for some gigantic, important issue, or some inane thing, like asparagus pee. You get to choose the level/intensity of the discourse.

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