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Francis Cape’s Utopian Benches is an installation of 17 poplar benches arranged in rows that together fill the gallery. Each bench was precisely replicated from existing benches crafted by American communal societies. Their form and design closely reflect their use within the specific community, and by extension their organizational structure and collective values. Of this work, Cape has asserted, “material culture reflects social structure.” The benches are shown alongside Cape’s suite of drawings that serve both as archival renderings and construction documents.
Utopian Benches recognizes these reductive, proto-modern seats as cultural equalizers and essential components in the creation of nonhierarchical spaces for conversation and communion, be it religious, political, or otherwise. Their arrangement creates an egalitarian field that levels proscenium divisions; here there is no stage or audience—we sit together.
The exhibition is accompanied by We Sit Together: Utopian Benches from the Shakers to the Seperatists of Zoar, published by Princeton Architectural Press.
Utopian Benches is loaned from the collection of Nion T. McEvoy.