Photos by Jeppe Hein.

Artist Jeppe Hein’s “modified social benches” are supposed to force you to engage actively with your surroundings; Hein describes them as facilitating an “exchange between the users and the passers-by, thus lending the work a social quality.” Which sounds pretty good, but if you encountered these in the wild, you could be forgiven for thinking that the city was just having a laugh at your expense.

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On the other hand, we can’t argue that the people using these benches do seem to be sitting very … actively. There’s no option to just relax and enjoy the scenery or the people-watching, but if your town is ugly, the effort of staying perched might provide a welcome distraction. At the very least, it’s probably good for your back.

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You can see more of Hein’s benches, and his other work, in his portfolio. Or you could go to places that his art is exhibited — most recently, a festival in Belgium — but I can’t promise you’d be able to actually sit on the benches. The benches don’t seem to want you to.

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