sittin’ with moncton (2)

September 27, 2011

jè-st’ : un festival d’art performatif et d’intervention, moncton new brunswick, 2011.

sitting on a bench in a public space is something we want to believe “anyone” can do. but if we stop and reflect for a moment we will realize, like most privileges in life, there are people who are unable to access this “right.” specifics of body can pose a barrier, for example, if your body can’t tolerate exposure to the sun, or you are confined to a wheelchair. however, there are also socially constructed barriers, enforced through laws. one of these barriers has to do with whether or not you are marked as homeless. generally speaking visibly homeless people are discouraged from accessing public spaces like parks and plazas. this “discouragement” can be engineered through the construction of the bench itself, with a metal bar being placed in the centre of the bench so a person cannot lie down, or quite simply, benches will either be removed or never appear. as well, fines can be levied for misuse of city furniture which can include putting your feet up on the bench, loitering, or spitting.

to date i have not seen one visibly homeless person sitting on the benches at city hall. if you know these benches, they are not constructed to discourage homeless users. however, as an aside, i have discovered the benches are not as they appear – their material of construction is not wood. rather the benches are made from a metal that is then covered in a material mimicking the look of wood. i wonder if my body was marked, covered in a material that mimicked the look of  homelessness, if i might find out why no visibly homeless person is sitting on a bench at city hall in moncton, new brunswick.

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