We Sit Together Utopian Benches from the Shakers to the Separatists of Zoar
Whether for protest, political or religious congress, solidarity, social companionship, eating, or comfort, sitting communally is one of the most powerful and prevalent of human social acts. This simple act of seating held special significance in numerous utopian communities that emerged in 19th century America and was given physical presence in the form of a variety of styles of wooden benches unique to these would-be arcadias. Renowned British artist Francis Cape is fascinated with these utopian benches and has reconstructed twenty-five of them following careful study and measurements. The results of Cape's bench building project are seen in We All Sit Together, which presents colour photographs and hand-drawn measured drawings of the benches, which come from both well-known utopian sects like the Shakers, and more obscure ones like the Separatists of Zoar. Cape also provides a written description of each bench and describes how the social or religious organization of the utopian community influenced the design of the bench. To be considered both as contemporary sculpture as well as furniture, the twenty-five benches evoke the accumulated aspirations that helped to shape them, while inviting collective engagement, speculation and discourse. The result is a fascinating look at a slice of Americana that will appeal to the collector, woodworker and student of American history.