We Sit Together
Utopian Benches from the Shakers to the Separatists of Zoar
Whether for protest, religious congress, companionship, eating, or comfort, sitting communally remains one of the most powerful and prevalent of human social activities. This simple act held special significance in numerous utopian communities that emerged in nineteenth-century America, and was given physical presence in the form of a variety of styles of wooden benches. Fascinated by these expressions of harmony and equality, renowned British artist Francis Cape sought out and made measured drawings of remaining examples.
We Sit Together presents twenty-five of Cape's beautifully reconstructed benches drawn from twenty utopian sects, active from 1732 to the present, ranging from well-known communities like the Shakers to more obscure groups like the Separatists of Zoar. Introduced by noted curator Richard Torchia, and featuring crisp photographs and lovingly handmade drawings of the benches, along with installation photographs by Aaron Igler, this rarely seen slice of Americana will appeal to the collector, woodworker, student of American history, or anyone who just likes to take a seat.
[A]rtist Jonathan Cape set out to start a conversation about communalism as both a historic and a contemporary alternative to individualism through reconstructing and installing together in a gallery setting reproductions of twenty benches used at twelve American communal societies. We Sit Together encapsulates what he learned from that project The book lacks any extended reflections on the bench form over time and in different spaces. Yet it makes up for that with the refreshing perspective of a contemporary artist/furniture maker who has a strong sense of the power objects have to inspire change.