Familistère de Guise, Frac Franche-Comté, 2016/2016
Since they were both on the same mission—to explore anonymous worlds—Olivier Vadrot’s educational project at the Lyon Fine Arts School and Francis Cape’s work entitled Utopian Benches – We Sit Together were bound to intersect. This English artist has been creating adaptable installations since 2011, reproducing and assembling benches found in American communities, specifically those traditionally distinguished by their extensive artisanal
activity. Shakers of course, but also the Harmony Society, the Twin Oaks Community and Camphill Village—which is perhaps less well-known in the
Old World. As Francis Cape explains: “The work opposes individualism with communalism. It celebrates values other than the individualist materialism of the mainstream. A bench is a seat that we share; it is also non-hierarchical, we sit at the same level19”. During each of his exhibitions, in order to demonstrate how these “utopian benches” are able to unite and bind a multiplicity of individuals and place them on an equal footing, Francis Cape holds a series of discussions and public debates right at the heart of his collection.
Under the wise eye of these two associate creators, students were asked to meticulously duplicate fifteen benches from communities like New Lanark,
Monte Verità, Ardelaine, Le Béal and Findhorn. First presented at the Familistère de Guise and then at the Frac Franche-Comté in Besançon, the exhibition of these benches—no longer separated by any ocean or any community barrier—are now enjoying a very respectable longevity, as well as a fine reputation. The exhibition travelled to Saint-Étienne, Bordeaux, Newcastle and Brussels.
Pictures : Florian Kleinefenn, Saint Étienne Biennial
Pictures : Studio Hoffman & Hans Meyer and Blaise Adilon, Familistère de Guise