The Public Bench

CR 885. Year 1999-2004

Wv876 Public Bench Jochen Gerz 000010
Wv 885 Public Bench 11
Wv 885 Public Bench 10
Wv876 Public Bench Jochen Gerz Photo Harpreet Khara 7 Adjust

Do you have a friend? Since 1999 the people of Coventry and visitors to the city have commemorated a friendship, secret relationship or a memorable encounter. The invitation to contribute to the ...

The Montparnasse monolith (one thinks forward to Harbug) was erected over Gerz's "signature act": a magnificent appropriation. These secrets that would never be revealed were time capsules contemporary with his Burials series; the inscriptions on the Public Bench likewise, though mysterious names and dates in Coventry replace jettisoned material objects. Both require ultimately anonymous or "lost" authors.

Sarah Wilson 2004

Another aspect of these works is that these same works make us sensitive to "change" (both within the artwork in question, and beyond or outside it). These works often also "refer to" or "call to mind" or "evoke in us" history. But, being activated, we do not see in them works that force a vision of history on us. They create a free space: not only for the imagination but also for OUR conscience, our emotions, thoughts, memories. They leave us free to think, to feel, to choose a position vis á vis the past and the present.

A.B. Meadows 2010

Public authorship / Work in public space

Curved concrete wall, length 45 m, 4,304 red metal plaques, each 115 x 168 mm, wooden bench

The Public Bench was the second commissioned work by Jochen Gerz for the Phoenix Initiative for urban renewal in Coventry.

The citizens of Coventry and visitors to the city were invited to submit their names, the name of another person and a date of their choice. The information was then printed on a red enamel plaque and mounted on the wall behind the bench at Millenium Square.

The reasons for the choice of the second name were not revealed. It could be that of anyone living or dead. It could recall a fictitious character from a novel, a myth or a dream. Emotions such as sympathy, admiration, support, recollection or love were expressed in many cases. Every submission was based on a personal decision which was neither published nor assessed by a jury.

People were invited to contribute to the work even after the inauguration (2004).

See The Future Monument (884).

City of Coventry, United Kingdom.


4,304 residents and visitors of Coventry


The Council of the City of Coventry, The Phoenix Initiative, Chelsea College of Art, Art Department of the University of Coventry, The Art History Department of Warwick University, McCormac, Jamieson, Prichard, (Architects), Coventry Evening Telegraph, Projectlab with students from Coventry, Olivia Bransbourg-Morel

Time of realization

Coventry, 1999 – 2004


II: Niesewand 1999. Barreto 2001. Goulden 2001. Grimley 2001. Scott 1, 2001. Scott 2, 2001. Scott 3, 2001. Scott 4, 2001. Goulden 2002. Lewis 2002. Melvin 2002. Scott 2002. Snockgrass 2002. Wilson 1, 2002. Wilson 3, 2002. Beales 2003. Bell 2003. Clark 2003. Dyckhoff 2003. Goode 2003. Goulden 1, 2003. Goulden 2, 2003. Gregory 2003. Hunt 2003. Oakley 2003. Scott 1, 2003. Scott 2, 2003. Scott 3, 2003. Tait 2003. Webb 2003. Wilson 1, 2003. Wilson 2, 2003. Wilson 3, 2003. Wilson 4, 2003. Wilson 5, 2003. Wilson 6, 2003. Wilson 7, 2003. Wilson 8. 2003. Wilson 9, 2003. Wilson 10, 2003. Dixon 2004. Ellis 2004. Fernie 2004. Goode 2004. Goulden 2004. Lovell 2004. Millis 2004. Wilson 1, 2004. Wilson 2, 2004. Wilson 3, 2004.

V: Vickery 2003. Wilson 2004 pp. 84-94. Hunt 2005 pp. 81-99. Hoeven 2015, pp. 210-250. Hohlfeldt 3, 2016, Accessed 5.7.2020. Vickery 1, 2016, pp. 129-144. Vickery 2, 2016, pp. 21-38. Vickery 3, pp. 243-256.

Access general bibliography

My name is Jochen Gerz