It’s been a strange sight for residents and visitors to Central City for many years.
A bench. But not for sitting.
It’s a bench behind bars – inaccessible to pedestrians or anyone else looking to take a load off.
Located beneath the Surrey Central SkyTrain track, the so-called Imprisoned Bench became a target more than five years ago as part of a crime prevention initiative. Instead of simply being removed, a blue fence was erected around it, as well as the light post that keeps it company.
And there the lonely slatted seat sat year after year. Until this past weekend.
Sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning, an interbenchion took place.
While still behind bars, the neglected two-sided bench was spruced up with colourful pillows and a warm blanket. A wooden coffee table with flowers and books was placed in front, and side tables flanked the sitting area. There were even slippers, a large TV and a painting hung nearby.
The guerilla public art was the work of an anonymous group of community members, local organizations and amateur artists who are documenting the initiative at www.interbenchion.blogspot.com/
During a phone call to The Leader, one self-professed “interbenchionist” said the isolated bench is the focus because of its peculiarity.
“It’s a unique thing. It’s unique to Surrey,” he said.
The plan is to have things appear and disappear from the area at random with the bench returning to its “unadorned self” after each temporary facelift. The group vows not to harm the bench and is committed to bringing some surprise and delight to passersby and adding to the “cultural fabric” of Surrey.
“In tribute to this unique local oddity, and in recognition of the change that is coming to our community we are going to bring a little bit of fun and the unexpected to the bench,” the guerilla art group writes in the blog.
This time around, the display was taken down by someone else – possibly city workers – before the group had a chance to dismantle it. But they promise to be back at unannounced times throughout the summer, or longer.
“If we’re having fun and people seem to be enjoying it, we’ll keep doing it,” said the interbenchionist.
In 2007, a film called Free the Bench was screened which documented a mock trial held for the bench, which ended in a jury’s decision to free the seating from its prison.
The group has plenty of ideas to randomly spruce up the area for future interbenchions, some of which may coincide with local events or special occasions.
“I don’t think we’ll try a TV again because it was really heavy to get over the fence.
“But they’re all going to be themed,” said the mystery caller. “Some of them may make sense and some may not.”
Ideas from the public are also being considered. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.